Welcome to a new addition to the blog called the Top Tipple Review. With these reviews I plan on reviewing all of the amazing once-in-a-lifetime samples or bottles that I’ve managed to get my hands on throughout the years. Many of the whiskies that will be featured will either be very far out of the typical bourbon drinker’s budget, very hard to find, no longer be available outside of auctions or personal collections, or a combination of these. I’ll probably never get a chance to try any of these whiskies again, and I cannot think of any better way to enjoy them than to share my experiences of them with my fellow bourbon folk! Sláinte – Paddy
The winning whiskies from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018 have been released and this year’s top spot has gone to E.H Taylor Jr. Four Grain! With a U.S whiskey taking the top spot for the second year running, tasting this pour was described in Jim’s own words as: “Nothing could match the astonishing beauty of its surprisingly delicate weight and complexity combined. It was though time stood still in the tasting room; I just knew…”
No room for argument there it would seem! So with the quick approaching tsunami of hype heading straight for a bourbon which was already hard to get a hold of before Murray’s announcement I thought I’d quickly throw my own two cents on this release into the ring!
Colonel E.H Taylor was a character so deeply connected to the past and present of the bourbon industry I could probably write an entire series of articles just on him – however that’s not why we’re here! Some basic background : he revolutionised the way bourbon was made and was heavily involved in the Bottled-in-Bond Act, which was aimed at protecting consumers from sub-par bourbon. It’s typically not very long into anyone’s bourbon journey before word of the Colonel’s namesake whiskies start appearing. In some circles they have gained a cult following with collectors spending hundreds to get their hands on both modern and past bottlings of the whiskies bottled under the Old Taylor name. In recent times the Colonel E.H Taylor Jr. brand of whiskies are made by Sazerac at the Buffalo Trace distillery and all carry the Bottled-in-Bond distinction. To date we’ve seen 8 expressions under the brand with four of these whiskies (Small Batch, Single Barrel, Straight Rye and Barrel Proof) being released on an ongoing basis, and another four (Old Fashioned Sour Mash, Warehouse C Tornado Surviving, Cured Oak, and Seasoned Wood) being once-off limited releases. In mid-March the 9th limited release hit with Colonel E.H Taylor Jr. Four Grain.
Following the release of a 12 year old straight bourbon made using corn, rye, wheat and malted barley, Buffalo Trace stated the motivations behind crafting this bourbon as follows:
“…based on the success of Buffalo Trace’s existing rye and wheat bourbons, harkening back to Taylor’s thinking of using the best of the best. “We wanted to extract everything we like from both the rye and the wheat mashbills we currently use and combine them to see how they react,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “Not surprisingly, it added complexity to the finished product.”
Name: Colonel E.H Taylor Jr. Four Grain
Age: NAS (Confirmed at least 12 years by Buffalo Trace)
Proof: 100 Proof (50% ABV)
Type: Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: Unknown – features corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley
Producer: Buffalo Trace
Source: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Appearance: Light amber coloring with shades of brown
Nose: The nose is a lot lighter than I expected with sweet caramel, a light, floral vanilla and hints of oak all present. Not much rye from the nose but there were some wheated notes reminiscent of Weller 12 in the far back after lots of huffing.
Palate: The palate opens with sweet vanilla, caramel, and cherries. As its chewed more charred oak astringency and rye spice come forward along with some light but definite wheat notes.
Finish: The finish is the only part where I thought I could really get the rye grain component. A wave of flavour bursting with caramel and rye spice hits and fades quickly leaving tannins and warmth.
This bourbon is definitely not what I expected. Traditionally for me Taylor bourbons carry strong complex flavors of caramel and vanilla with a touch of spice throughout, whereas this seemed a lot lighter on the nose and palate. The only giveaway for me that this was a four grain bourbon was the distinct Weller 12 wheat notes I got on the palate and then rye spice in the finish. Despite its lack of punchy flavours, this bourbon is still very well disciplined and at no point do all four flavors dance on the palate at once and end up stepping on each other’s feet. I like to think that this was done with the purpose of not overwhelming the palate with a barrage of intense grain flavors as other younger four grain bourbons sometimes tend to do. I like to think that I might be able to get my hands on a bottle for the RRP (very much wishfully) as this would be a very enjoyable sipping whiskey but honestly I didn’t feel the urge to stand up and clap after swallowing my first mouthful. It’s also important to remember that this whiskey was barreled in 2005 – long before four grain bourbons were as common as they are today. This in itself tells you that Buffalo Trace may have anticipated four grain bourbon becoming something that whiskey lovers may grow interested in in the future and makes me excited to see what will be coming next in the E.H Taylor line. Another lucky development is that this will be released again in 2018 and hopefully will mean that those who want a bottle should have another chance of getting one if they’ve already missed out on this year’s bottling.
Try or buy?
I’m a big fan of E.H Taylor for taste and quality so if you can get this for the RRP then jump on it! Unfortunately with limited releases like this, and now Mr. Murray’s endorsement, the issue of massively inflated prices makes finding one probably impossible for a sane price. So I’d say definitely try it first (if possible) before you go out and spend your life savings on it.
Also full credit to Oak & Barrel NYC for the image used.