Buffalo Trace Tasting Notes

Posted: March 25, 2013 in American Whiskies, Rye

Thomas H Handy Rye 8 year old 66.35% (132.7 proof)

Tasted: Oct 2008

Good grief where do you start, the aromas buzz around like an agitated bag of bees! There’s intense crisp rye grains fighting with vanilla oak, manure, salty-chestnut, Cuban coffee crystallised fruits and a beguiling violety note.

The palate is no less intense. As Jim Murray says, this is faultless and mesmeric. The crisp rye grains hit the tongue first followed by a gloriously soft toffee-vanilla fudge flavour. Then it opens into a grassy, floral, violety phase, lazily followed by a bittersweet, earthy, spicy, gingery symphony. As it winds its way leisurely to its conclusion some waxy, vegetal spice and sandalwood notes become apparent. Wow this is a serious journey!

Thomas H Handy (2013 Release) 64.2%

Best American Rye/ Tasted; Jan 2014

Nose: A dense, impenetrable nose. Gobbins of earthy but sweet rye, citrus, cinnamon, liquorice, smoke and solid woody, grainy oak. With time it becomes quite herbal with leafy, nettly, camphor-like herbal notes. Water makes it simpler, oilier and a little soapy but the oak has a lovely marzipan character now.

Palate: Smoky and earthy with plenty of undergrowth-like notes – truffles, liquorice and slightly decaying, mulchy herbs. Monstrous hit of rye on the middle carried in by the alcohol, but the rye spices sweetens rather pleasantly. With water it becomes less intense and oiler.

Finish: Long, fiery and spicy. The alcohol bites and makes the mouth water uncontrollably! With water it’s a bit bitter and woody.

Conclusion: Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! – Stunning!

Thomas H Handy Rye 64.6% (2014 Release)

Tasted: Feb 2015

Nose: Quite dark and treacly with rich, almost sherried dried fruit and seriously spicy oak. Gently violety rye nips along with hints of hops, salt, cherry, citrus and lightly fragrant spices. The intense tannins are a little on the gritty side, probably emphasised by the alcohol. With time the rye begins to show its herbal character. Water makes the aromas softer and spicier with hints of cinnamon, brown sugar, capsicum, bacon fat and some sour fruit. Quite manurey as well with an almost bretty character.

Palate: Quite dry and lightly tannic with rich oak and treacle. Hints of dusty, spicy rye appear along with a touch of dried fruit, but the alcohol masks. Water emphasises the wood, if it needed emphasising! Still very rich with more dried fruit and the herbal rye becoming more prominent.

Finish: Long and very herbal. Intense and woody with some biting spices, bitter coffee, liquorice and dark chocolate. Diluted the finish is still quite dry with a light marc-like note now noticeable.

Conclusion: Completely opposite in character and nature to the Millstone. Where that is soft and refined this is raw, duty and bitter


Sazerac Rye 6 year old 45%           

Tasted: Feb 2008

Very intense, young, exuberant and peppery aromas. Biting rye grains come to the fore with a touch of violets, coffee and supporting oak.

Young and clean on the palate, quiet light with the crisp rye up first, followed by a very peppery middle, a touch of brown sugar, violets and oak. That lovely rye grain intensity runs through it nicely. Good length with an earthy after taste. It is not overly complex but it makes up for that with buckets of flavour and intensity.

Sazerac Straight Rye 45%

Re- Tasted: July 2013

The aromas are quite, thick, floral and syrupy sweet with violets, menthol and herbal notes. Young and edgy with plenty of sweet toffee’d oak and only a subtle rye spiciness. Wow, this is a lot thicker than I remember it and less spicy although with time some spiced orange, treacle and light cocoa notes appear.

Dense and thick with a touch of toasted corn and lazyoak vanillins. The gentle rye spices arrive to give it an edge along with hints of black pepper, cocoa, bitter chcoclate and treacle. Super smooth and deep, mind you have to wait for the layers of oak to part before the spicy rye can be found. Very long with an earthy, light rose petal marc-like note on the finish, but those soft, earthy spices linger.

Sazerac Rye 75th Anniversary of Prohibition 45%

Single Cask Bottling for the Whisky Exchange

Tasted: Nov 2009

Huge and floral aromas of sweet rye grains, coffee, cocoa and violets. Monstrous amounts of toasted and charred vanilla, yet the youthful grains do balance it out. With time some late cyrstalised orange, earth, toffee and herbs put in an appearance.

The palate is surprisingly delicate, given the nose. Opening with the gentle toasted oak, rye and violets. This leads into a candy floss middle but the bitter oak and grains balance the sweetness and dries out the finish, which becomes very gritty. It actually feels like there are grains stuck in-between your teeth! Lovely length with the violets hanging in there and joined by spice and botanical notes at the end.

Sazerac Rye 18 year old (2007 Bottling) 45%            

Tasted: Feb 2008

A blend of Minnesota Rye, Kentucky Corn and North Dakota Malted Barley.

Huge, complex spicy aromas of crisp grain, oak, molasses, old leather and an abundance of slightly oily, delicious toffee. Thick and chewy with unbelievably spicy and powerful flavours – mint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, vanilla oak, leather, pepper and violets. Complex and sturdy the flavours come in waves and waves. One to sit and wallow in.

Sazerac 18 Years Old (?Fall 2011 Bottling) 45%

Tasted: Mar 2012

A stunningly beautiful, mature nose. Redolent of aged, oily Armagnac-esque dried fruit – prune, raisin. Wonderfully soft an aromatic with a good proportion of rye [obviously!] and some lovely mature oak adding plenty of peppery spices.

A venerable and gentle palate. The oak and spirit are in perfect harmony. The Rye soars majestically above a bed of oak and corn. Beautifully weighted with plenty of cinnamon laced dried fruit. Very long with some peppery, old marc-like notes.


Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Straight Kentucky Rye Whiskey 50%

Tasted: July 2014

Nose: A huge toffee hit! Sweet toffee coated flambéed banana, marzipan, fat corn and a light rye spice note which just about stops it from being too sweet.

Palate: Soft and full with plenty of sweet, sugary, caramelised dried fruit, fat corn and lightly peppery spice. Polished and intense with a serious alcohol bite.

Finish: An intense and earthy finish, with hints of violet and the spicy rye finally coming through. The oak dries and adds some bitter chocolate, but it’s a seriously impressive finale!

Conclusion: What can you say? Classy. I’d buy it for the finish alone!


Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 year old Rye 47.8%

Tasted: Feb 2006

A lovely cognac-esque nose of sweet oak and crisp rye. With time it becomes exceedingly sweet and a bit spritiy. The palate is very dry and intense with plenty of crisp rye. Slightly floral, with a very earthy, dunnagey mid palate. Very long with the rye sharpness ever present and a developing violet note.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Years Old, Family Reserve 53.5%

Tasted: Dec 2012

Nose: Quite tart and citrusy to begin with followed by a beautifully pure Java coffee note. The lightly nutty oak is subservient and allows the complexity of the spirit to shine with dried plums, blood orange rind, almond and brown sugar. The oak eventually begins to assert itself in a light fudgy manor. Still the nose keeps evolving with late hints of liquorice and earthy, peppery spices. Water makes the aromas quite oily with the nippy rye now released and it so luscious and warming. Almost perfection!

Palate: A huge Java coffee opening salvo, followed by some dried fruit conserve and dominating treacle laced wheat. Impressively dense and although the combination of alcohol and tannins mask, those tannins have a sublime cocoa quality. Water makes it become seriously moist and succulent. Just like the nose that lovely nippy rye has been released.

Finish: Quite peppery and like the palate rather masked. Water brings out the rose petal marc notes and maybe a tad more bitterness from the oak.

Conclusion: Absolutely stunning. I’d guess at a wheated bourbon? [tasted blind……!]

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Years Old, Family Reserve 45.2%

Tasted: Dec 2012

Nose: Intense, pungent, earth and again almost peated. Buckets of hard as nails rye and dark coffee grains. The oak has a beautiful supple, floral character and the depth is superb. With time some chocolate orange appears and the rye really asserts itself with a sweet spice/ pepper edge.

Palate: Intense but soft. Plenty of earthy rye to start with, which over rides the fluffy corn. The oils build along with some cherry and violet notes. Quite tannic on the middle and the oak has increased in density and now shows a resiny side to its character. Light treacle laps at the edges.

Finish: Wow! Mouth-watering dried fruit and oxidised notes. Bitter chocolate mingle with some rose petal marc. Quite tannic but the sugars wonderfully offset that bitterness.

Conclusion: Intense, pungent, mature and superb.


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