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Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Review: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey   84.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 29, 2011

The Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Frankfort, Kentucky and is the oldest (although unfortunately, not continuously running) distillery in the Unites States. The Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon was introduced by the distillery in 1999. The Bourbon is made from a mash-bill of Indian Corn, selected rye grains, and malted barley. The resulting spirit is placed in selected white oak “center ring” barrels from selected trees which are aged from 70 to 80 years old. Finally, according to the Buffalo Trace website, meticulous inspection of the various locations in the Buffalo Trace warehouses had concluded that the very best whiskey was being produced on the fourth floor of warehouse C and the fourth through sixth floors of Warehouses I and K on the distillery site. For this reason all of the Buffalo Trace Bourbon is aged only in these locations.

In the Bottle: 4.5/5

The bottle presentation for Buffalo Trace Bourbon has all of the elements I like to see. Eye-catching graphics, a wax sealed cork, and a bottle which fits easily on my liquor shelf.

My only quibble is the back label which contains several paragraphs of information about the bourbon whiskey. Unfortunately the type is so small that I had a very hard time reading it.

In the Glass 9/10

The Buffalo Trace is a bronze-caramel coloured whiskey which shows deep rich hues of mahogany. When I poured a dram into my glencairn glass and gave it the customary tilt and swirl, I witnessed a stubborn crown at the top of the oily sheen which only grudgingly releases slow-moving legs back into the whiskey.

The initial aroma from the glass is layer upon layer of fresh cedar and oak planks with the sap still dripping from the wood. The scent has a touch of astringency, and it is hard to get at the sweeter underlying aroma of honeycomb, vanilla and corn. But, as I let the glass decant, I began to notice them, first the honeycomb came wafting up mixed with sweet toffee, and then the vanillans and corn pushed through the breezes.

The astringent aroma I noticed in the early glass was surely caused by the 45 % alcohol bottling strength that gave the initial nose a bit of an alcohol push.

In the Mouth 50/60

The mouth-feel of the bourbon is a little thick and aggressive with the higher alcohol strength and the sturdy oak tannins having their way initially. I decided to try to chew my way through the oak to get at the sweeter honey and corn but the bourbon definitely has other ideas. As I chew, I taste fresh currants and pungent spices; I also taste soft leather and green tobacco; and quite surprisingly to me I taste layer upon layer of unsweetened cocoa. I realize now that some of these flavour impressions were apparent on the nose, but I had missed them in the updraft of higher strength alcohol. Further sips begin to reveal sweeter honeycomb, toffee and corn which seem to have been added to the flavour after the glass had a better chance to breathe.

I was a little disappointed that the sweeter flavours which revealed themselves after the glass had decanted were not more assertive. My sense is that the Buffalo Trace is perhaps a little more harsh than I personally would like it to be.

In the Throat  12.5/15

The chocolate in the finish is unbelievable as it slides down the throat with pungent nutmeg and scattered cloves. A touch of sweetness reveals itself at the very end, but for me the finish weighed to heavily on the bitter and too lightly on the sweet.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

You could say that although I have not scored the Buffalo Trace badly; but, I have not scored it especially well either. I guess you could say that I was mildly disappointed in what I encountered. The whiskey shows great depth of flavour, but it lacks the balance of flavour to tie everything together. Spicy nutmeg and cloves; oak and cedar planks dripping with sap; soft leather and green tobacco; and fresh currants are all great descriptors. But, somewhere the honey and vanilla were left on a sand bar in this sea of flavour, and I did not encounter them often enough while I was rowing through the currents.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Below are two recipes I enjoy immensely when I take out my bottle of Buffalo Trace. The two are similar, with the first being a tremendous sipping cocktail which I can enjoy after dinner, the second is more of a highball for Saturday Afternoons when I am a little more thirsty. In each cocktail I use Diplomatico Hacienda Saruro, which is an exquisite aged rum liqueur, and which also acts as the perfect complement for this particular bourbon.

Kentucky Crocodile

1 oz Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 oz Diplomatico Hacienda Saruro
lime garnish

Build in a rocks glass with ice
Garnish with a lime slice


The Crocagator

1 oz Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 oz Diplomatico Hacienda Saruro
2-4 oz Cola
lime garnish

Build in a Collins glass with ice
Add the Lime Slice to the Glass

Please enjoy the cocktails I suggest responsibly!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

3 Responses to “Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

  1. D. Ranada said

    I still prefer this bourbon with a splash of water. That is all it needs to bring out the nuances hidden under the heat.

  2. Alexis said

    Adding a splash of water really makes this bourbon shine.

  3. Ryan said

    Very nice and accurate review! I agree that this seems a bit on the harsh side, but not so much as to make it unpleasant. Buffalo Trace is very good for the low price, but as you state I think it would benefit from a bit more balance of sweet flavors. That would really make it a “go-to” bourbon. Still, for the price, it’s a good buy.

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