I last reviewed Blanton’s bourbon in the halcyon days of 2011, when people (myself included) had to be convinced that premium bourbon was worthy of attention, not just single malt scotch. Also, the idea that many brands of bourbon would sell out instantly and be allocated and restricted to waiting lists was… laughable. Even Pappy was sometimes just sitting on shelves.
Blanton’s is a storied bourbon named after former distillery president Colonel Albert B. Blanton. The brand was created by legendary master distiller Elmer T. Lee in 1984 when he selected so-called “honey barrels” from Warehouse H and created (purportedly) the first single-barrel bourbon label. Obviously the idea of bottling bourbon from a single barrel was not a new concept at the time, but marketing a brand around the idea was novel.
The barrels used for Blanton’s are aged somewhere between 6 and 8 years in Warehouse H, which is metal-cladded and has wider temperature swings than other Buffalo Trace warehouses. (This, theoretically, ages the whiskey faster.) While Buffalo Trace does not publish its mash bills, Blanton’s is thought to contain 12-15% rye which is more than the company’s “low rye” bourbons (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare) but still less than many “high rye” bourbons on the market. Here’s a good rundown on Buffalo Trace mash bills.
Largely due to the popularity of Buffalo Trace premium whiskies such as Pappy Van Winkle, Weller, and the various Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bottles, Blanton’s has become very hard to find and often sells for much above retail, which should be closer to $70. My bottle of Blanton’s is from barrel #209 from Warehouse H Rick 56 and it was dumped 12/20/2021.
Nose: Downright gentle, with lightly toasted pecans, buttered cornbread with honey, maraschino cherries, and fresh hay. Light on spices this time, with only a bit of dried lemon peel. After a few minutes a note of dried apple appears.
Palate: Syrupy body, and mouth-filling. Soft, with only a mild tongue burn… surprising for 46.5% ABV. Unctuously sweet, with candied pecans, brown sugar, blonde fudge, and vanilla cake frosting. A second taste reveals cherry pie filling and a touch of red wine tannin.
Finish: Medium length. A bit nondescript. No tannins, no bitterness at all, but also little else. Some dried cherries, perhaps, a lasting trickle of cake frosting. A second taste improves the finish, but flavors are still thin on the ground with faint shortbread and vague sugars.
With Water: Several drops of water bring out a touch more fruit and a stronger nose tickle. The palate seems unchanged, but the finish is livelier and carries more of the fruit notes. Water might help if you’re experimenting with a dram, but definitely try it without the water first.
Overall: Something’s a little off with this barrel. It smells heavenly and it tastes beautiful but it falls apart on the finish. It’s downright anemic, in fact. This is a rare example (for me) of a Single Barrel release that maybe should have been dumped into a vatting of barrels to average it out. I won’t hold it against Blanton’s which has cachet and a good name for a reason but I would probably have been a bit disappointed if I’d purchased this on the secondary market for more than it’s worth (upwards of $150 last I checked). At $69 I’m not at all upset.
This is still “Recommended” — if you can get it for a reasonable price, that is.