Welcome to my Sample Vault Reviews. Here you’ll see the amazing once-in-a-lifetime samples in my ‘vault’. A lot of these have been generously sent to me or swapped for a sample of something I own! These samples range from 3-20cl sample bottles and are from bottles that I don’t currently own. I may not get another chance to try any of these whiskies again and I cannot think of a better way to enjoy them than to share my experiences of them with you, my reader! I usually base my reviews on multiple tastings but these will be based on a ‘one sitting review’- if you have the same whiskey but got different tasting notes, let me know. I am always curious to hear from other people’s palates. Enjoy responsibly my friends!
Sláinte! – Paddy
Released in November 2020 by The Last Drop Distillers (a UK-based Independent Bottler owned by Sazerac UK Ltd.), this bourbon boasts a proud pedigree and hails from the iconic George T. Stagg Distillery before it was renamed the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1999. Produced by then-Master Distiller Gary Gayheart it spent 20 years ageing in virgin oak barrels followed by another 20 years in stainless steel tanks before being uncovered by Gary’s apprentice, Harlan Wheatley, who is the current Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. The casks were then blended by Sazerac’s accomplished Master Blender Drew Mayville and bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV). When speaking about the whiskey, Drew had this to say about the liquid:
“The taste is the definition of flamboyant with an orchestra of flavors with each flavor harmoniously mingled. Delightful notes of figs, dates, maraschino cherries, wood, saddle leather, pipe tobacco, toffee, plums, raisins, walnuts, and butterscotch. It’s a virtual symphony on your palate. This vintage bourbon is unforgettable as the finish transforms miraculously from a dark chocolate, almond, leather, caramel, and oak to a gentle warming spiciness. It’s truly a memorable and extraordinary experience from the last drops of the past.”
This bourbon was tasted via Zoom alongside The Last Drop Distiller’s MD Rebecca Jago who guided us through the history and backstory of both the company and this unique release. As the daughter of spirits industry icon and original company co-founder, Tom Jago, Rebecca knows her way around what makes for a once-in-a-lifetime spirit be it Cognac, whiskies, or rum. Let’s get to it!
Name: Last Drop Distillers XIX: 1980 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Age: 20 y.o.
Proof: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: undisclosed wheated bourbon mashbill
Producer: George T. Stagg Distillery (now Buffalo Trace Distillery)
Nose: The nose opens the classic dusty butterscotch and old minty barrel notes I’ve come to associate with older bourbon from the 80s, these are followed by tobacco, leather, and hints of dried black cherries.
Palate: The palate opens thick and creamy with old, charred oak, deep maple syrup, old wheat, dark chocolate, herbaceous funk, more dried cherries.
Finish: The finish opens with old tannic oak, faint sweetness, and herbaceous oak leading into a bitter yet pleasant aftertaste.
This whiskey is almost perfume-like and carries all the hallmarks of a ‘dusty’ bourbon. It has butterscotch funk, minty oak, dark chocolate, dried red and dark fruit, and a little barrel spice to boot. Being a wheated bourbon (as we found out during the tasting) there was very little spice and the flavours go together very well with the oak influence being nowhere near as overwhelming as you’d expect for 20 years old. During the tasting Rebecca explained that having spent 20 years in stainless steel tanks had no doubt worked to soften the oak-forward character of this whiskey and leave behind a more balanced and flavour-dense bourbon. Having tasted other Buffalo Trace whiskies that had been tanked at one time or another (2015 Sazerac 18 anyone?) the potential impact that tanking super-aged American whiskies can have on the profile is an interesting factor which I’m sure Buffalo Trace are studying extensively.
Unfortunately, trying this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and considering that the RRP for this whiskey is in the region of €4,500 I won’t be buying a bottle unless I win the lottery. However, for those with deep pockets I would highly recommend they consider owning this piece of history before it vanishes. Those that do buy a bottle will also find a 50cl sample included to allow them to indulge.