I’ve barely reviewed any American whiskey in the last three months or so: just the port cask finished Heaven Hill and the Pikesville Rye 6, 110 Proof. So, this is a good time to take a bourbon break in the midst of all these single malt reviews. I have today the Elmer T. Lee. This sample was acquired from the meticulous Michael K. and so I can tell you that it was bottled this year. It is a single barrel release though so there’s no guarantee that one you might find will be exactly or very much like this one, but I suspect the blenders at Buffalo Trace (where this is made) are pretty good at maintaining the profiles of all their different labels/brands. What they’re not good at, apparently, is putting barrel information on the labels for Elmer T. Lee; the bottle code for this one, for what it’s worth, is B1505421:29K. Michael K. tells me that the mashbill for what goes into Elmer T. Lee is 15% rye and further that this is apparently one of Buffalo Trace’s higher rye mashbills.
Elmer T. Lee (45%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bright with a bit of honey, light caramel and candy corn; the second wave bring some cold black tea and hints of pine. Just a touch of dusty wood. With more time there’s a bit of orange peel mixed in as well. A bit of water pushes the rye notes back a bit and emphasizes the corn.
Palate: Quite similar to the nose but a little darker and a little sweeter. The mouthfeel is a little too thin. On the second and third sips it gets a little spicier (cinnamon) and a little more herbal (dill). With a lot of time (>45 minutes) it get much spicier (and also thinner in terms of texture, which might make it seem sharper than it is). As sometimes happens, water improves the texture but doesn’t really do much else for the palate.
Finish: Medium. Gets quite mentholated and then the oak shows up with a bit of tannic bite at the end. Less oak and more spice with water.
Comments: I think I am out of step with the bourbon cognoscenti (see Sku’s faint praise, for example) but I think this is a very pleasant, very drinkable bourbon. I don’t know how easily available this still is in the $30 region, but if you can find it at that price it’s very good value; a dicier proposition north of $40 but, to be frank, I’m not sure if there is a whole lot that isn’t these days in the American whisky world.
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample!