Straight. From. The. Barrel. No filtering, no proofing, just dumped and bottled. This sounds like something I can get on board with. While the Buffalo Trace Distillery has been producing Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel for a number of years, it has been an export-only until very recently when the distillery announced it would finally keep this product in it’s native country (press release). While it’s not on U.S. shelves just yet, I have a bottle from the export market we need to open up and explore…let’s get to it!
While up until the most recent days, the only Blanton’s product adorning shelves (or being tucked away out back) was the original single barrel product.
If you dig back through The Bourbon Finder Archives you’ll see our review for Blanton’s Gold Edition which is now available in the U.S. market (I’m using the word “available” very loosely here). At the time I reviewed Blanton’s Gold I had no expectation of seeing it show up domestically, and certainly hadn’t considered seeing the big brother–nicknamed SFTB by enthusiasts–offered in the United States; however, digging more into this development I’m starting to think it makes sense.
A barrel being dumped at the distillery (photo: Buffalo Trace Distillery)
Blanton’s remains today what it always was: a premium product. Now before you rip me apart for that statement–please understand that I’m painting with broad strokes. I realize the emotional pendulum swings very far (in each direction) over not just Blanton’s, but many of the products from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Hear me out.
While there’s no way he could have predicted the current bourbon climate or economy, Elmer T. Lee began the brand as an homage to Col. Albert B. Blanton, and did so by following the Colonel’s own method of cherry-picking the “honey barrels” from the center cut of [the now infamous] Warehouse H. Check out what they had to say on the Blanton’s website about the brand:
Elmer T. Lee introduced the world to Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon a year before he retired. In doing so, he revolutionized the industry by creating the “super premium” category of bourbon with the world’s first single barrel bourbon. This idea was somewhat radical at the time because it challenged the identity of what most folks thought bourbon to be. Today, most distilleries offer one or more single barrel bottlings, but Blanton’s was the first, and we still believe the finest, single barrel on the market.
Like the whiskey or hate it. Like the prices or hate them. Bourbon has evolved, and is now as much a luxury hobby as it is a blue collar spirit. In that sense, I think it’s great to see super premium products offered–even if the price is out of reach of my budget.
Enthusiasts can really help push a market, and I’m here to see just how good things can get. Speaking of which, let’s pull the horse and jockey off this bottle and get to work!
Nose – Vanilla and spicy oak mixing with not-yet-ripe apple and an oily fruitiness that’s doing it for me. I’m catching some tart cherry and ethanol as well. This is good.
Taste – Big hit of spice and some ethanol that says “hi” and mellows into a rich dark flavor. Heavy vanilla and fruit. Brown sugar rolls on and trades places with the fruit–that fruit is delicious and works well with the darker sugars and vanilla.
Finish – Long and complex. There is plenty going on here. The oily coating and higher proof carry this cherry apple crumble along a spicy road. This is the kind of finish I search for.
Bourbon Finder Grade: A-
In the end, it’s clear to me that this is a product I really enjoy. I say that with a small dose of reluctance, though, because I personally feel as though the [original] Blanton’s Single barrel has fallen a victim of it’s own success.
That product was one I could (for years) find locally without much effort, and always rely on it hitting a profile I enjoyed. With it’s explosive popularity, that bottle is not only harder to find, but I have had one or two recently that didn’t taste as though they had aged quite as long as I was accustomed to from that brand–or perhaps it hadn’t spent as much time in the magical Warehouse H.
Now the demand for this product being astronomical as it is makes sense that a slight relaxing of standards may occur to attempt to increase supply of the flagship label. I’m just hoping the folks making this product keep a strong focus on the output quality, even if that means an increase in price. I can only speak to the quality of SFTB that has come from the export market for now, but it’s absolutely delicious…and to that I’ll say cheers!
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!
I got into bourbon for the flavor and experiences associated with it. As I found more bourbon I enjoyed, the need to dive deeper into the history, brands, and technical side of things converted me into a total bourbon geek.