By Richard Thomas
Seeing as how Blanton’s Gold Edition was the second release of one of the most prized of premium bourbon brands, and one that is by and large unavailable to Americans, I sometimes find myself wondering why it doesn’t have a substantial buzz hovering over it. Even if you assume that the talk of taking the cream of the crop of Blanton’s barrels, selected from the esteemed middle racks of Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace, is a bit of marketing glitz, there are still solid aspects to take note of in this bourbon.
First is that whereas the standard Blanton’s is bottled at 93 proof (46.5% abv), Gold Edition is bottled at a potent 103 proof (51.5% abv). When you consider the proportion of diehard bourbon nerds who prefer higher proof whiskey, my wonder at how generally understated this true blue single barrel is in those nerds circles becomes obvious. Also, there is the unreachability quotient, since Blanton’s Gold Edition was created for the European market and is available in the United States only as a special re-import.
I must begin by saying my particular bottle comes from a barrel dumped in 2012, prior to the death of its creator Elmer T. Lee. I have no knowledge as to whether Lee was involved in selecting any barrels for the 2012 run of Blanton’s, but the notion of having some special Blanton’s made while the man was still with us strikes a sentimental note with me, guaranteeing that this bottle will be unstoppered on few and infrequent occasions.
The nose is thick with vanilla syrup, seasoned with citrus zest. The scent is both floral and spicy, and tinged with oak. While the oaky vanilla and floral sweetness are on the bold side, there is enough sophistication there to make this bourbon a real sniffer, the sort of thing you’ll want to nose over and over again.
Just over the 100 proof line, Blanton’s Gold Label should not require water to make it drinkable for most bourbon fans, although some may wish to add a few drops in keeping with their habits. The flavor is heavy and chewy, packed with fruits like apricot and peach in place of the citrus in the nose. The vanilla sinks to a minor note, subsumed by a rich mixture of cake spices. Throw in notes of dry, toasty wood and earthy chocolate, and you have a sophisticated, potent sipper.
In quite the contrast to the nose and palate, the finish starts off very warm and on a spicy, dry and woody spot, but winds down quickly.
I rated the main line Blanton’s with an “A,” but if I allowed for more liberal grading I might have listed it as “A/A-.” This stuff is also an “A,” but clearly so. The higher proof suits those Blanton’s barrels well. Really the only downside is the European bottling at 70cl, shorting the consumer by a full, standard shot relative to its American counterpart!
I have seen this listed in the UK for between £65 and £75, but on the Continent I have found it priced at a more modest €65 ($72). In Europe or on the lower end of its British pricing, this bourbon is well worth the money.