Former Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee passed away in 2013. In 2019, to commemorate what would have been the legendary bourbon-maker’s 100th birthday, Buffalo Trace released this special single barrel, dubbed the ‘100 Year Tribute.’ Elmer was a radar bombardier in WWII, flying combat missions in B-29s over Japan for the Army Air Force, so the proceeds of this special release were donated to his Frankfort VFW post. According to Buffalo Trace, this bottling was drawn from standard Elmer T. Lee stock with a slight increase in proof – 100, of course – being the only thing to distinguish it from the bottles you can, very rarely, find on the shelves today. Let’s see what a little more oomph does for Elmer, shall we?
The aroma is noticeably brighter and fruitier than the standard offering, with notes of green apple and candied orange peel, even a little jackfruit. The caramel, maple syrup, and butterscotch of the traditional Elmer are there as well, but as secondary notes that only really emerge with significant time to breathe. The palate doesn’t draw as stark a contrast, with plenty of the classic caramel corn, vanilla fudge, and toffee of the original, but fruitier notes do present themselves, cocktail cherry and clove-studded orange among them. There’s no noticeable increase in warmth, but the overall body is bigger, giving this tribute bottling a bit more weight to carry some of those new flavors further into the generous finish.
A flavorful bourbon that manages to edge out, however slightly, some of the standard offerings I’ve encountered. Unfortunately, this was an exceptionally rare release when it came out two years ago, so as with everything that precious from Buffalo Trace, you’re going to have to pay a premium, maybe even sell an organ, to get a bottle now.