Struck Gold or Simply Fool’s Gold?
Blanton’s has become rather polarizing depending on who you talk to. It’s an absolutely amazing drinker’s bourbon or a joke of a whiskey nicknamed ‘Blandton’s‘. However, the history of the brand and Buffalo Trace’s influence in the bourbon market cannot be diminished. In the four decades since its initial release, the brand, the market for single barrel products, and bourbon in general, has exploded in popularity.
Previously an export-only bottle and only recently was Blanton’s Gold available domestically in the US. This slightly higher-proof single barrel is far more limited than your standard 93-proof bottle and with it, double the retail price.
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Region: Frankfort, Kentucky
Cask type: New Charred Oak.
Color: 1.5, Auburn. Natural Color.
Tasted neat in an Glencairn glass with 10+ minutes of rest. Small amount of dilution was added with additional rest of about half an hour.
Nose: While preparing for this tasting, I sipped on some regular Blanton’s and poured a glass of Stagg to compare. Blanton’s is a single-barrel product but I noticed a distinct lack of fruits on the nose. Buffalo Trace and Stagg both come with an artificial cherry note and neither my glass of Blanton’s nor Blanton’s Gold had this quality. In fact, the Gold was far more grain-forward and surprisingly nice on the nose. It didn’t smell like a youthful grain whiskey but embraced those cereals. Honey Nut Cheerios and Raisin Bran. Cinnamon spiced and lightly sweetened apple peels. Delicate fig cookie notes to go along with the currants and raisins. Lastly a very faint leather note. After adding a touch of water, some expressed citrus oils emerge and that cinnamon note is pushed forward a touch more.
Palate: First thing I’d like to note is the texture. It’s rather important to me and it’s not unpleasant here but it’s also not as viscous as my Stagg. I know I’m comparing barrel proof to 103 but when comparing the Gold to the regular release, it’s a noticeable and appreciated difference. Full on baking spices with cardamom, heavy cloves, and again a cassia cinnamon richness. I’m still not picking up many fruit notes but the cereals and honey notes are enjoyable. Adding water was the wrong decision for this bottle. Astringent oak takes over the baking spices, leaving the glass muddy and spoiled. Air time helped far more and allowed that very subtle fig note to rise.
Finish: The finish is where all the typical bourbon sweetness seems to be hiding. Burnt toffee, molasses cookies, and ginger snaps. A combination of hard caramel chews and bitter citrus pith. The texture is on the dry side like cinnamon-covered toast. Where I was praising the cereals on the nose and palate, the grain on the finish does have an unpleasant youthful character to it. I preferred a touch of dilution for the finish. The baking spices are very satisfying with the oak in this bottle and it gets hidden as the finish is on the short side, unfortunately. Additional rest time is still your best bet with this bottle with more palatable citrus elements opening up.
As this was the first time having more than a single pour of Blanton’s Gold in a sitting, it was fun to get the chance to dissect it a bit more. Gave me an opportunity to play with dilution and extended rest times while tasting side-by-side with a regular bottle. It was eye-opening. The textural differences, the lack of that cherry note I’ve found in other Buffalo Trace products, and the emphasis on baking spices. Maybe that metal shell of Warehouse H really does change their whiskey.
Blanton’s isn’t a bottle I gravitate towards but it’s one I keep on the bar for friends who’d want to try it. Buffalo Trace in general actually just isn’t a favorite distillery of mine. Stagg (Jr.) is one of my favorite bourbons and the sole product they produce that I prefer. It tastes so incredibly different from Blanton’s it’s hard to imagine they came from the same distillery.
Is the Gold worth the extra expense? Yes, but once, and at retail. The flavor didn’t win me over but the textural difference was a few steps above the 93 proofer. If you don’t want to buy a whole bottle, definitely grab a side-by-side pour of each at a bar and enjoy your tasting. Most of my enjoyment was in comparing and contrasting the differences. Next time I’ll have to add in a pour of Straight From the Barrel!
Final Score: 86