*A sincere thanks to AP from Buffalo Trace for the sample.
As an American whiskey drinker, you’ve doubtless come across the term “Bottled in Bond”, perhaps you’ve given some thought to what that means…or perhaps not. Today, the term carries far much less weight than it did in 1897 when the “Bottled-In-Bond” act was passed. Back then, most of the “whisky ” being produced was a bit of a crapshoot. Much of it was blended together with cheaper grain spirits and then actually flavored and colored with fortified wines, teas, and/or even spices. There was no regulation in place to protect thirsty consumers and let them know just what the hell they were drinking, and no incentive for these unscrupulous whisky makers to change their ways. That is until ol’ Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr. gathered up a bunch of bourbon making friends, secured the support of then Secretary of the Treasury, John G. Carlisle, and said, “Enough of this crap, let’s pass a damn law!” (ed. note, there is no reason to believe ol’ E.H. Taylor said this, nor is there any reason to believe he used such blue language, though if you’re like me, it’s not hard to imagine these whiskey types swearing up a storm.)
E.H. Taylor Jr. could count, among his relatives, two former U.S. Presidents, James Madison and Zachary Taylor. James Madison is of course known as the “Father of the Constitution”, (a document we Americans simply love to misinterpret) and Zachary Taylor was of course known as “Old Rough & Ready”…presumably for his long military experience and not his presidency as he died just 16 months after being inaugurated. Where was I? E.H. Taylor was known in his time as a successful financier and politician. In 1879 teamed up with a whiskey man named George T. Stagg to open the O.F.C. Distillery. Renowned for its quality, O.F.C. (stands for “Old Fire Copper”) was renamed the George T. Stagg distillery in 1904, and was renamed again in 1999, The Buffalo Trace Distillery. With Taylor’s leadership and political clout helping to secure its passing, the Bottled in Bond act of 1897 forever changed the way whiskey was made in this country.
To be labeled “Bottled-in-Bond” requires that a whisky is produced at a single distillery in a single “season”, and matured in a bonded warehouse under government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). These seem like fairly strong requirements to follow but the bonded warehouse aspect of the act created a bit of incentive for whisky makers. By designating a warehouse a “bonded” warehouse, Distilleries did allow the government to supervise the premises and the contents therein but, in return, they were able to defer the payment of the excise tax until the whisky was deemed “mature” and ready to sell. That means distillers were not paying taxes on their spirit and then having to wait the four years to make that money back when it was ready to sell. Thanks to E.H. Taylor, this singular moment in American whisky history basically upped the quality of the whiskey and laid the foundation for the bourbon industry we have today.
To commemorate Taylor’s contribution, Buffalo Trace began releasing the Col. E.H. Taylor special edition expressions in 2011. Before this Small Batch Bourbon release there came the Single Barrel, the Old Fashioned Sour Mash, the Warehouse “C”, the Barrel Proof, and the Straight Rye editions. This particular whiskey was aged on the 6th floor of the historic brick Warehouse C for seven years and, like the bottled-in-bond act insists, was bottled at 50% ABV.
The Nose: A very nice but, in a way, undistinguished nose. Upfront notes of buttered bread with cinnamon and sugar and fresh kettle corn with lots of caramel, vanilla custard, and earthy molasses following right behind. Decent notes of orange-tinged chocolate, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean play a secondary role with subtle hints of corn on the cob, fresh-sawn oak and barrel char off in the distance.
The Palate: This one lays out all its cards right away. Butterscotch, juicy orange, and strong cinnamon hit right away and pretty much dominate the rest of the palate. The mashbill is plain to see as well, more corn on the cob, popcorn and corn oil. Towards the end, another wave of cinnamon, coarse vanilla bean, candied clove, and tannic, grippy wood notes emerge
The Finish: Lingering with burnt corn oil, bright cinnamon, and tannic oak.
Thoughts: A decent bourbon but this one lacked the balance and complexity on the palate to be thought of more highly. The nose is quite satisfying if not a little expected, but the palate is just too one note and seemingly a bit empty. It’s incredibly smooth sipping and certainly enjoyable, I liked the caramelized sweetness and the strong, obvious corn influence, but kept hoping a little more would evolve. Buffalo Trace seems to hit a lot of high notes, which is of course fantastic, but it also sets the bar pretty high. The E.H. Taylor Small Batch is a good bourbon but, thanks to its straightforward flavor profile and relatively simple, one-note palate, falls a little short, especially considering the $40 price tag .
E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon