Today is National Bourbon Day, which, along with Repeal Day and Bottled in Bond Day, are days on the calendar when American spirits and bourbon in particular are celebrated. I recently got a bottle of one of my favorites I used to buy all the time but that is now scarce, Col. E.H. Taylor Single Barrel. I still remember seven years ago when my wife presented me with three bottles of Taylor at Christmas – Barrel Proof, Single Barrel, and Small Batch, which she picked up from a local liquor store in Marksville, LA. Can anyone reading this who is really into bourbon imagine getting that for Christmas like it ain’t no thang? Those were the days, before everyone realized how great this Bourbon is. But, not anymore – even to get a bottle of small batch is something these days. Getting a bottle of Single Barrel or Barrel Proof is like getting a bottle of Pappy was seven years ago. I have reviewed this whiskey before, but since it is a single barrel on limited release I do think each batch deserves a review. I have noticed over years of drinking Taylor Single Barrel that the flavors do vary, whereas Small Batch has a consistent (and great!) flavor profile. The last bottle I received was purchased last fall, in November.
Given that this is June, I was curious about whether this was the same batch as last time or a different batch. So, I looked at the bottle laser code, and was actually able to get a clear picture of it.
The L in the code stands for the bottling line at Buffalo Trace Distillery. 19 stands for the year. 217 is the day of the year it was bottled, so this one was bottled August 4, 2019. So, this is possibly the same batch I reviewed last November, and they simply released some more of it onto the market OR the distributor was holding onto it for a bit. Or, it could be the batch I reviewed last November was from earlier in the year. The rest of the code related to the time of the day it was bottled, so this was bottled at five minutes after 5 pm. Of course, different distilleries will use different formats for their bottle codes, if they use them at all. Buffalo Trace and 1792 (both Sazerac distilleries) use bottle codes on limited release products, so you won’t find these on every bottle they produce. But, these laser codes on limited release bottles from Sazerac are a boon for collectors and bourbon nerds like me. Yes, certain years are better for certain limited release bourbons, and people know this and make note of it. Much like fine wine. One would think that once you put bourbon in a barrel and you wait out the time, that would be that. But outside temperatures and humidity will affect how a bourbon ages, and how much is left in the barrel after it ages. To the extent warehouses at Buffalo Trace are climate controlled (excluding Warehouse X), they have heat, but not air conditioning. Put simply, how hot the summers are while a particular bourbon is aging will affect yield and taste.
So, this is not a 2020 release of this bourbon. But, I am not sure this is the same bourbon I had last November, and I wish I had checked the laser code. The color is slightly lighter than I noted the last bottle having. Rather than orange on the nose, I am getting more apple notes, like caramel apples at Halloween. Hints of rye and oak as well on the nose. Lovely oily legs and film on the swirl. On the palate, heavy vanilla, corn syrup, apple, caramel, followed by baking spices, cloves, and perique pipe tobacco on an extremely long finish. The mouthfeel is medium heavy as far as body. It’s not a syrupy thick cask strength bourbon, but it is pretty stout on the palate. And I like that a great deal. This is a really good bourbon. I don’t know if Buffalo Trace entered this bourbon in any judging competitions, but they certainly should have. This one is really really really good.
The grassy rye notes I have had in the last two bottles of this are not as pronounced, which tells me this whiskey is probably from the lower rye and not higher rye bourbon mashbill at Buffalo Trace, which, as I have previously noted, they will interchange from time to time on various bottlings.
But what I really love about Col. E.H. Taylor Bourbon, and I mean any of them, is the finish. Some Buffalo Trace bourbons (by design, I think) have a drying oaky finish on palate, particularly Eagle Rare. The finishes on the E.H. Taylor line, however, tend to be very juicy, and I just prefer that as a matter of taste.
The August 2019 vintage of Col. E.H. Taylor Single Barrel is truly excellent. This is a rock solid, probably eight or nine year old, bottled in bond bourbon. I am very happy I popped this open for National Bourbon Day. And I am happy I recorded the vintage of this great bottle for reference in the future.