By Richard Thomas
Updated November 20, 2014
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon has the looks to go with an original whiskey classic, and as the first modern single barrel bourbon it is definitely that. The ornate spherical bottle and trophy-like race horse stopper are so eye-catching that some are drawn to Blanton’s bourbon for the packaging alone, and therefore inadvertently discover the grande dame of modern Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Hands down, Blanton’s has been one of the best bourbons on the market for almost 30 years.
Blanton’s is named for Col. Albert Blanton, a Frankfort, Kentucky native who began working at what became the Buffalo Trace distillery in the late 1890s and rose to manage the distillery around the time it was renamed in honor of George T. Stagg (another prominent name in the history of Kentucky bourbon) in 1912. Blanton decided that the barrels aged in the middle of the distillery’s Warehouse H produced the best whiskey, and adopted the practice of personally tasting and selecting barrels from this area to create a private reserve. When Buffalo Trace’s Elmer T. Lee invented the idea of single barrel bourbon — whiskey drawn entirely from a single barrel and not blended with other whiskey or additives — in 1984, he chose to use only barrels aged in the middle of Warehouse H and named the label after Blanton.
Blanton’s has a deep reddish-gold color, the sort of off-amber appearance that is usually a good portent with bourbon whiskey. As the standard product for the Blanton’s bourbon line, the whiskey is aged for eight years in white oak barrels with a #4 char, and the date the whiskey was dumped from the barrel is noted on the label. It is bottled at 93 proof (46.5%).
Blanton’s Single Barrel has a nose of caramel and orange. The flavor is full-bodied with a hint of cloves and the burnt sweetness of caramel and orange.
Addendum by Jake Emen
With its (literally) trademarked stopper and Faberge egg-esque bottling, Blanton’s is perhaps the most recognizable bottle of bourbon on the shelf. More importantly, it remains a tried and true choice, whether to introduce a friend with little bourbon or whiskey experience to the good stuff, or simply to enjoy a classic for around the home sipping from time to time.
The bourbon offers a spicy and vanilla-tinged nose. You’ll notice the influence of rye throughout the tasting experience, including a relatively long, spicy finish.
However, compared to many newer entrants on the scene, the rye content in its mash bill is still at a relatively low mark and doesn’t dominate the experience or remove from the deep and satisfying bourbon char and lingering sweetness that you’d expect from a quality bourbon. You may also get some citrus on the nose and on the palate.
The “original” single barrel offers a unique mix of approachability and complexity that’s often imitated but rarely replicated.
Addendum by Kurt Maitland
Nose: Sharp citrus, bound with spice and vanilla
Color: Copper Red
- Sampled neat, one has the pleasure of a smooth drink, both in taste and feel. It doesn’t burn but still has bite. The promise of the nose is fulfilled in the taste. Carmel, vanilla and spice, melded into a perfect balance. Not too oily, not too dry with a finish that lingers for a while.
- With ice, the flavor opens up in new ways, with the citrus notes initially becoming more prominent and rounded, then fading into the vanilla/caramel. Later tastes shift the spices to the front and now the finish is a slightly drier yet still perfect blend of all the prior flavors.
- Final notes – One of my favorite bourbons bar none. This has been a constant in my liquor cabinet since I was first introduced to it.
Addendum for “Straight From The Barrel Release” by Kurt Maitland
Color: Old gold
Nose: Rich honey, vanilla, chocolate, with a slightly floral finish
Taste: Creamy, almost buttery with a prominent mix of honey, vanilla, chocolate and tobacco notes.
Finish: This release has a long finish, with a heated middle and a fruity apricot end
This 6 year old is an export only uncut/unfiltered release, initially crafted for the French market, who requested a cask strength edition of Blanton’s. 63.5% or 127 proof. This can vary between 127 and 140 proof, depending on the bottle you are pouring from. My only issue with this release is that it isn’t available in the US. It’s hard to improve on a classic like Blanton’s but this release needs to find its way, even as a limited release, to some US stores.
Blanton’s typically retails for $55 on the liquor store shelf. Online retailers might discount that to as low as $40, not including shipping and handling. Given the high quality and august reputation, Blanton’s is a major bang-for-the-buck bottle of straight bourbon whiskey. If you are referring to the export “Straight From the Barrel” version, expect to pay the equivalent of between $30 and $50 more.
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon carries some serious garlands. The whiskey has won four double golds, two golds, a “Best Single Barrel,” and a silver medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition between 2006 and 2014. The whiskey also won a Grand Gold Medal from Monde Selection in 2006, the 2010 Silver from the Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition, “Very Good / Recommended” rating plus 2012 and 2013 Chairman’s Trophies from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. From the International World Spirits Competition, the record is two golds plus an Outstanding Bourbon Trophy.