Blanton’s was one of the first whiskey reviews to grace the digital pages of Drinkhacker way back in 2007. Even then it was already held in high regard, but in recent years its popularity has skyrocketed like so many bourbons coming out of Frankfort (where Buffalo Trace Distillery is located, for the uninitiated).
Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee introduced the brand in the 1980s as the very first, commercially available single barrel bourbon. He named it for the former president of the distillery, Colonel Blanton, who had a reputation for hand-selecting “honey barrels” from Warehouse H and bottling them as gifts for friends and important guests. Warehouse H, the only single story, metal-sided warehouse at the distillery, has been the exclusive home for Blanton’s barrels since 1984. The unique properties of that warehouse are said to cause the aging whiskey to interact with the oak at a steadier rate, meaning Blanton’s can be bottled at just 6 to 8 years of age, comparatively youthful for such a premiumized product.
In the years since we first reviewed the classic Blanton’s, we’ve tasted an impressive store pick (completely unheard of today given the demand), along with Blanton’s Gold and Straight From The Barrel, both of which just recently began to see U.S. distribution after long being exclusively available overseas. So, as of 2021, let’s take a fresh look at an old favorite and see how it stacks up.
The aroma shows soft, toasty notes of cornbread and cinnamon sugar with a subtle, slightly savory crème brûlée sweetness and a touch of orange zest that adds a welcome brightness. The palate is oily and sweet with a classic brown sugar and vanilla bean profile that comes across with a light, almost toasted marshmallow note, with a little bit of barrel char adding some astringency. The heat is soft at first and builds gently, along with the sweetness and baking spice. It’s really the finish that seems to be the most lackluster part of this one, as those flavors tend to dissipate a bit too soon.
Blanton’s remains an incredibly approachable bourbon that still holds its own among the many single barrel bourbons that have come out since its debut. While it remains a solid option, for my money, Gold and Straight From The Barrel offer a more memorable experience.