Some spirits like to step outside the box and others like to conquer the box–Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel does the latter. This spectacular bourbon doesn’t resort to experimentation in order to get its point across, instead taking an “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” approach pioneered by a man whose name is still synonymous with quality control to this day. The outcome is a strong, balanced pour that elevates classic bourbon to its fullest potential. And that’s what makes Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel our “Spirit of the Month” for January 2017. Read on for some back-story, tasting notes and a brief Q & A with Kris Comstock, Senior Marketing Director of Bourbons at Buffalo Trace.
Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel Bourbon takes its name from…wait for it…you guessed it: Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., a Kentucky legend and bourbon titan whose name ranks in the same echelon as James Beam and George Stagg. Born in 1832, Taylor was the kind of American you only read about in history books but rarely see in the flesh. His grand uncle was General Zachary Taylor, the war hero turned 12th President of the USA.
Colonel Taylor was industrious and passionate and nowhere did those two facets harmonise more than with his craft. Not only did Taylor own and operate seven distilleries in the course of his lifetime (one of which would eventually become Buffalo Trace), but also through both diligence and tireless innovation he revolutionised the industry in the process. At a time when most operations were nothing more than a few dudes in a shack contaminating their already unpalatable moonshine with toxins before selling it as legitimate whisky, Taylor was setting up an epic distillery on Glenn’s Creek. There, he could tightly control the process and yield consistent, exceptional Old Taylor Bourbon.
Appropriately, Taylor was a well-known advocate for the Bottled-in-Bond Act, which laid out specific regulations to ensure quality control and went into effect in 1897, thereby reinvigorating whisky among drinkers who’d grown wary of imitators. That was merely one among a slew of achievements Taylor laid claim to, which is why to this day he’s considered one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry.
Now owned by Buffalo Trace, Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. is still bottled in bond and the Single Barrel expression is aged in handpicked barrels inside Warehouse C, the same warehouse Taylor constructed in 1881. That’s not just to honour the Taylor’s craft and achievements, but to sustain the legendary quality of his bourbon as well.
Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel relies on many of the same tried and true techniques developed by the man himself over a century ago. In other words this statement masters the classic approach rather than try to reinvent the wheel since Taylor handled most of the necessary innovation. The result is an expression that flaunts a rich colour of light amber and a bold, remarkably balanced taste, one that elevates but never strays from the phrase “Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey”. Here’s a tasting breakdown:
Nose – The luxurious aroma of baked plums along with dried fruit like raisins and figs. Also present is deep spice and oak.
Taste – Immediately hitting the palate are buttery, sweet notes of molasses, raisin, and plum. At the end is a lasting trail of spice, oak and tobacco.
Finish: Spice, oak and tobacco fills out a long 100 Proof finish that’s hot but never harsh–similar to Wild Turkey but far more pleasant thanks to the lingering sweetness and overall smoothness. During a hard swallow, notes of orange peel and even fennel burst forward on the palate.
In essence, Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel starts big on the sweetness and ends big on the spice and tobacco, with ample notes of both characteristics intermingling the whole way. It’s worth noting that some experts and enthusiasts have mentioned that the more affordable Small Batch expression from the same brand is comparable, though when it comes to bourbon little differences can sometimes go a long way. Comparisons aside, what we’re looking at here is well-rounded, classic bourbon that hits all the right taste buds at all the right times. Delicious.
In most industries, when a big company swoops in to swallow the little guys it’s usually indicative of unwelcomed changes or compromises. Not so in the bourbon industry, where the larger companies usually try to preserve the things that makes each smaller statement unique. That certainly seems to be the case at Buffalo Trace, which offers arguably the best bourbons on the market today, especially through their legendary antique collection. Statements like George T. Stagg, William Larue, Thomas Handy and Pappy Van Winkle don’t just sell out in record time whenever they’re released, but they represent the absolute pinnacle of timeless craft. Likewise, the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Collection (while certainly more readily available) encapsulates everything that makes Straight Kentucky Bourbon so distinctly enjoyable.
Given a fondness that borders on reverence when it comes to the Buffalo Trace portfolio, I was tempted to bombard Kris Comstock, the Senior Marketing Director for bourbons over at Buffalo Trace, with questions about all things related to the company. However, in hopes that this is merely the first among many instalments to feature Buffalo Trace-owned brands, I centred the majority of the questions around Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Read on for his responses:
How has the recipe or process for making this spirit changed since the days of Taylor?
The basic process for making bourbon has not changed much since it was first created several hundred years ago. However, with the advent of technology, we can more accurately monitor the process and keep tighter controls on quality.
For how long is the spirit aged?
A little over 9 years.
What specifically gives Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel the exceptional qualities you won’t find in other single barrel bourbons?
Despite it being bottled in bond (100 proof), it’s exceptionally balanced with both a sweetness and tobacco smokiness.
What’s your favorite Colonel E.H. Taylor story not widely known?
Col. Taylor was evidently quite stylish! He was said to never be seen in anything other than a suit and reportedly owned over 100 suits!
Any new expressions in the pipeline?
Maybe, stay tuned!
Who is the master distiller for Colonel E.H. Taylor bourbon? Does he or she distill any other spirits/brands for Buffalo Trace?
We only have one Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, Harlen Wheatley. Harlen is responsible for distilling all spirits produced at Buffalo Trace.
Any advice for emerging distilleries?
Just keep focus on high quality ingredients and consistency. And don’t be tempted to take short cuts on time in the barrel. Letting Mother Nature do her own thing on her own time clock is always best.