WARREN BOBROW (this article was originally published on April 2, 2012)
On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow.
Johnny Dodds is on the short wave radio, crooning to me from another world.
“After you’ve gone, after you’ve gone away.”
What better series of words are calling out for a restorative sip of Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey… This venerable bottle has graciously rested over there on the shelf, alongside many other bottles, and it remained under-sipped and under-appreciated until now.
Music from the 1920s makes me want to drink good bourbon whiskey like Buffalo Trace. Maybe it’s because Johnny Dodds left New Orleans in 1920 – never to return; yet his music is firmly grounded in the essence of New Orleans. This passion for the whiskey seems to ooze out of my pores even more intensely when I listen to music from this man. Enjoying a bottle of Bourbon in New Jersey is, to me, at least akin to Johnny leaving New Orleans. Once this bottle left Kentucky, it would never return.
Buffalo Trace is not a mass-produced liquor. Nor is it overpriced for a spirit being produced in such small batches.
Most importantly a bottle of Buffalo Trace shouldn’t set you off by more than $25 a bottle or so. That makes it a good deal in a market clogged with expensive expressions of Kentucky bourbon.
Whiskey this well made usually costs double or even triple the price.
There are flavors in the Buffalo Trace that harken to Pappy. And that would be correct, because the same distillery makes Pappy.
Which Pappy are you speaking of? That Pappy is Pappy Van Winkle!
Of course the recipe is different. That’s what makes Buffalo Trace so unique!
Buffalo Trace is made from Corn, Rye and Barley. In order for them to call it bourbon, the product must be 51% corn. There is certain spiciness to each sip from the rye and a creamy quality from the cask.
I like it a lot.
So, I’ve been up to my ears in Pappy. I brought a bottle of the 15-year Pappy down to Charleston for the Wine and Food Festival. It was much less expensive to drink my own rather than someone else’s Pappy at $30 per GLASS! Why drink anything else? If you have it, drink it. That was until I opened this bottle of Buffalo Trace. I cannot believe that this expression has rested so long without even being sipped.
The aroma of dark maple syrup permeates the room almost immediately upon opening the cork-finished bottle. I have a wood stove fire going and the wind is howling outside in more of a shriek than a mere whisper- but this shouldn’t make the situation any less conducive to enjoying a few nips of this lovely hand-crafted bourbon whiskey. Given the fact that it is suddenly frosty as winter outside, what better reason than to breathe in the sweet aroma deeply? It is woven into the smell of the earth, the fire and the wind all at once. This is good stuff!
Pappy, go back up onto the shelf. I think I’m going to enjoy this glass of Buffalo Trace!
Nice hand-torn-looking label and natural cork finish! Very nice touch.
The memorable aromatics of freshly tapped maple syrup fills the room almost immediately along with notes of sweet toasted corn and charred cinnamon toast slathered in freshly whipped butter. There is the warm underpinning of scraped nutmeg along with a deeper backbone of sweet molasses. I love the scent of this elixer and I jam my nose deeply into the glass, breathing the toasty flavors aggressively into my nostrils.
On the tongue, flavors of Asian spices predominate with vanilla and caramelized peaches.
The sharpness of the alcohol is in the background of the almost juicy mouth-feel. This would be the perfectly marvelous mixing bourbon. There is so much going on in my mouth, across my tongue and down my throat. It’s quite remarkable to taste. There is a certain density to this bourbon. It is not thin or cloying in any way. The sugars reveal themselves slowly and the finish just goes on and on. There is a certain dusty quality to the finish as well as unmistakable flavor of the earth. The unique terroir of this whiskey differentiates it from all other liquids on earth. This terroir is unique to the place.
Weighing in at 45 % ABV, Buffalo Trace has all the stuffing to lead in a mixed drink, not play follower.
Think about Sazerac cocktails, Manhattans, and of course my favorite, a Bourbon Hot Toddy. All are perfectly suited to Buffalo Trace’s full-bodied approach and long finish.
I’m going to err on the side of craftsmanship. This bourbon needs creativity- but it also needs simplicity.
This afternoon I’m sprinkling a bit of branch water over the top of a little hand-blown Murano glass from Venice to release the secrets held deeply within.
This is truly delicious stuff. Now go grab yourself a bottle and share it with your friends! You don’t even have to tell them how much you (didn’t) spend.