I decided to do something a little different in this blog post-review bourbons in the less than $20 a bottle range. One might ask why I am drinking such swill, but my wife went to Trader Joe’s recently and bought me a bottle of their bourbon, and Hokus Pokus started carrying Jeffers Creek as sort of a house brand and I bought a handle when they were out of Buffalo Trace. The reason I am reviewing these two together is that they are from the same distillery, Barton 1792 which, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac.
Jeffers Creek is a six year old 80 proof bourbon, while Trader Joe’s is 90 proof with no age statement meaning it is at least four years old as it is labeled straight.
Note that the bottle is the same as Weller’s bottles were up until last year. The color is straw; more like a scotch than a bourbon. Nose is very basic with corn syrup and rye, slightly floral but very plain. The palate is light corn syrup rather than dark with a slight hint of baking spices. Not great but not offensive either. It’s better than some bourbons I have tried at twice the price. Would be fine in a cocktail and is tolerable neat.
Trader Joe’s is a slightly darker straw color probably owing to the fact that it is proofed down 5% less. Nose is slightly more than the Jeffers Creek but not much. The palate though has a lot more rye spice and that Bardstown Funk that Barton Bourbons have but that 1792 bourbons do not have, owing to the different mashbills and yeasts used.
So I could say I recommend Jeffers Creek over Trader Joe’s. But what I really recommend is that you spend six bucks more on a bottle of Buffalo Trace. A Fifth is typically $21-23; with a handle costing $37-$40. I typically buy handles.
The color of Buffalo Trace is a right on the money bourbon Amber color. 90 proof is far superior to me than 86 or 80 proof, the typical proof for flagship bourbons of the major distilleries. The nose is rich corn syrup sweetness, a bit of spicy rye, slight oak. Very complex for a bourbon of this price. Palate has the corn sweetness and rye spice of the nose with some vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon. It’s all subtle but there is a lot going on. Mouthfeel is really nice on this whiskey, and I would say it is thicker than the Baker’s Small Batch I had recently. No nutty or funky after taste since they use Red Star dry yeast for fermentation, which really allows the grains, rather than the yeast, to flavor the whiskey. Nice lingering rye spice finish. In short, it’s really really good and can hold its own against whiskies at twice the price. It makes a great old fashioned and is the go to cocktail bourbon at local restaurants and bars that care.
If you are thinking about getting into bourbon, start with Buffalo Trace. If you don’t really drink bourbon but want to have a nice bottle at the house no one would turn their nose up to, try Buffalo Trace. Want to make sure the Mint Juleps or Old Fashioneds you want to have at a cocktail party are just right? Use Buffalo Trace (and Peychaud bitters from Sazerac in the Old Fashioned).
Sing it with me now, “what a difference, six bucks makes…”