By Richard Thomas
Since 2011, Colonel E.H. Taylor whiskeys have become fan favorites among enthusiasts not just because of their quality, or even their place at the forefront of Bottled in Bond whiskeys, but also because the line yields limited editions that most actually have a decent shot at buying.
So it is that I am quite certain many are looking forward to this latest Colonel Taylor, and that it’s a four grain Bourbon has little to do with it for most of them, but not for me. I am always very keen on the experimental twists in whiskey-making that make current times so interesting, and if a Colonel Taylor goes there, then you know you are going to be seeing that twist taken to a far more mature extent than any craft distillery can manage.
Such is the case with the Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain, ninth in the series. Made from all four traditional Bourbon grains—corn, rye, wheat and malted barley—this whiskey was entered into the barrels at 104 proof and kept there for 12 years. That aging far surpasses any four grain Bourbon around today. As a Bottled in Bond, the Bourbon was distilled at Buffalo Trace in a single season, aged in a Federally-supervised warehouse and bottled at 100 proof.
The appearance of this four grain Bourbon is a brown-leaning mid-amber, and that brown shading gives the liquid a dull characteristic. It’s therefore not the most visually attractive of whiskeys, as it doesn’t catch the light in any real sense. Even so, while a nice looking whiskey isn’t a bad thing, appearance is arguably the least indicative part of the picture. A swish leaves a coat that streams legs.
I found the nose subdued and reluctant. The caramel was there from the outset, along with a hint of the floral, but the remainder of the aromas required some time to draw out. Sweet vanilla comes out to accent the caramel, along with a very light trace of anise.
The palate had a light feel to it, complimenting the subdued nose, being just a touch oily. The core Bourbon flavors are there: candy corn sweetness, vanilla bean, a little spicy oak astringency and a little smoky “barrel char.” The wheat and the rye impact on this Bourbon are almost ghostly in their substance, since my take is the light brush of spice that is there comes from the wood and not the grain.
The finish is, in fact, the heaviest part of the experience. A wave of caramel washes right over it, and as it drains away quickly, leaves lasting warmth and a coat of tannins.
Although it’s a good Bourbon, the Taylor Four Grain left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. Compared to my experience with other four grains, I don’t think the use of both rye and wheat in the same mash bill really came to the fore here. Also, while insubstantial is entirely the wrong word, it’s effervescent rather than subtle, and I find that strange for a 100 proof Bourbon.
The Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon is marked to retail for $69.99.