Buffalo Trace Limited Edition Harlen Wheatley Single Barrel Select Review

dsc_4256-2aBuffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a staple in many a whiskey bar and drinker’s home.  The distiller’s statement is as follows: “Ancient buffalo carved paths through the wilderness that led American pioneers and explorers to new frontiers. One such trail led to the banks of the Kentucky River where Buffalo Trace Distillery has been making bourbon whiskey the same way for more than 200 years. In tribute to the mighty buffalo and the rugged, independent spirit of the pioneers who followed them, we created our signature Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.”   They have a longer and more in-depth statement about this on each bottle.

I was going to do a review of their standard expression, but when I got home I discovered that I had grabbed one of their Limited Editions.  This whiskey is not a batch version (as is standard) but a single barrel selection.  This means that while it will hold true to their general profile, it will be unique to the barrel it was drawn from. And as most know, each barrel will produce results unique to themselves, some better than others.  Part of the desirability for single barrel whiskey is that while you know pretty much what you are getting, the experience will be new to each bottle (given they are from different barrels) you drink.

With Buffalo Trace, they name their limited editions based on who does the picking of the barrel.  Most of the time they will be named after a store, or vendor.  Samples from a select group of barrels are sent to the business, and one barrel will be picked to represent that business or person.  The problem has been that at times it appears that whoever picked the barrel didn’t necessarily pick a “good one”.  So customers have expressed displeasure with one or more Limited Editions.

Should this be a problem with the Limited Edition I have?  If I were a betting man, I would say this bottle should be wonderful.  And why is that?  Well because it was picked by Harlen Wheatley, of course.


For those who may not know, Harlen Wheately was named the Master Distiller for Buffalo Trace back in 2005.  So if Mr. Wheately picked this barrel, there are good odds that it is a winner; after all, his name and reputation are directly involved.

Again, this review is for the Harlen Wheatley Limited Edition Single Barrel Select version of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and not their standard batch version.  But it will still give you an idea what to expect from your pours.  I will be doing a standard “batch” review at a later date.

You can find out more about Buffalo Trace and their other offerings at their website: www.buffalotrace.com.

dsc_4252-2ABV: 45%

AGE: NAS (9-10 years?)

SERVED: Neat / Glencairn Glass

COLOR: Amber

Coats the glass well and then forms medium long legs.

NOSE:  Oak and butterscotch, a bit of honey, citrus, a hint of leather, light spices, and vanilla works its way in.  With a deep inhale you get caramel and maybe some marshmallows.

PALATE:  A bit oily.  Sweet caramel, vanilla, and marshmallows start the show but are not overly sweet.  A gentle kiss of oak and mild spices, and ever so slight brown sugar.

FINISH: Short to medium.  Not much heat, less than I expected for a 90 Proof bourbon.  In fact I have some 80s that have more fire.  Oak (but not too bitter) lingers with some very light spice and a clean sweetness.  As you drink more of it, you notice the dryness in the finish.

OVERVIEW:  This is a pleasant pour.  I don’t find it offensive in the least. That said, I don’t find it particularly engaging either.  This is not a bad whiskey at all, and I think Mr. Wheatley made a fine pick for what it is. But for a few buck more I can get Eagle Rare, and I think for me that would be a better purchase.  In the mid to low $20’s there are other bourbons that I would grab first.  If this was at 100 Proof I think I would really like it.  But at what I consider a weaker 90 Proof, it is simply a “good” whiskey.  Is it worth the money?  Sure.  If you like a mildly sweet, unoffensive, bourbon this will suit you well.  As I said, it is unoffensive and pleasant.  But for me, it is a bit forgettable.   It is a whiskey that while nice, just does not speak to me like Eagle Rare does.  And as I stated, there are other bourbons in its price range or less that offer more.  With a Buffalo as its mascot one would imagine a bit more “wild” in the pour.  This is more like a prize willing Jersey than a Buffalo.  I really like the bottle and labeling though.

PRICE: $26

ADDED:  With oxidation the spices take a more prominent role.  I enjoy that a great deal.  And with dark chocolate, simply wonderful.  My “sweet spot” for dark chocolate with whiskey is 72% cacao.  With a less spicy whiskey lower the % of cacao in your dark chocolate, but 72% is spot on with most higher proof and/or spicy whiskeys.

ADDED MORE: With further oxidation (6+ months) the spices fade and sweetness takes over.  This is still an enjoyable pour tough.  Both versions of oxidation change are, in my opinion, better than the first few pours upon first opening.  So if you have the time, this is definitely worth the price.


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