Colonel E.H. Taylor is a brand owned by prolific distiller Buffalo Trace. The brand consists of a large number of expressions (per their website), nearly all of which I’ve never seen on store shelves. The Small Batch, though, seems to be widely available. The Small Batch is bottled in bond and (therefore) is 50% ABV and at least 4 years old. It’s appropriate that this whiskey is bottled in bond, because its namesake Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was one of the first proponents of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which protected American bourbon from unscrupulous retailers and counterfeiters. The Colonel, called the Father of the Bourbon Industry mostly by people who own his brand, was the financier and, later, owner of several early distilleries. He is known for his innovation of production processes and leadership in lobbying the government on behalf of the early American bourbon industry. His Old Taylor brand of bourbon is still produced by Buffalo Trace. This Small Batch (and the other expressions in the Colonel E.H. Taylor brand) are modern tributes to the Colonel, first released in 2013, and intended as “premium” or luxury versions of Old Taylor.
Details are sparse, but we know that the Colonel E.H. Taylor whiskies are from Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #1, a low-rye (estimated below 10%) mash shared by Buffalo Trace bourbon, Stagg, and Eagle Rare.
Nose: Shy, even after a rest in the glass. The overall impression is mellow corn sweetness, with a delectable assortment of floral notes and subtle caramels and fudges. Very little nose tickle, even deep in the glass. Definitely subtle, but also complex – there’s a lot to pick apart in there.
Palate: Syrupy body with a silk-like texture. A mild (for 50% ABV) tongue burn is followed by light oaky tannins, more corn-based sugars and caramels, mildly bitter nut skins and almond butter. A second taste reveals lightly tart fresh cherries.
Finish: Of medium length. The same silky mellowness translates to the finish, which is nearly devoid of bitterness and simply continues most of the flavor notes. I could wish for a bit more evolution here, but that’s splitting hairs.
With Water: A few drops of water initially sap the aroma of any presence, so give it a little time after adding water. The water seems to add a nice taffy note, and also a pretty elderflower note and more cherry to the palate. Try first without water, and then add just a little.
Overall: An excellently solid if laid-back bourbon for a price that shows that Buffalo Trace knows its quality. You’re not getting a deal, for sure, but you are getting your money’s worth. The whiskey is more impressively mellow when you compare it to other 100-proof bourbons. It’s also better than some “craft” $50 bourbons that I’ve had. Colonel E.H. Taylor is different enough from other ‘standards’ on the market that I’m marking it a “Must Try”. This is especially a must if you’ve grown tired of the overly-oaked overly-brash bourbons that are common on shelves these days.