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Trying to spend my holiday bonus


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John,

I would be willing to bet money that this bourbon was made at Ancient Age. It has too many of the same taste characteristics as Ancient Ancient Age. I think it is Elmer T. Lee's whiskey and it is a damned fine whiskey!!!

Linda is the voice of reason here and you should listen to her. Of course all the bought was the label because Seagrams has too many blended products that they can put their whiskey in to sell it off.

Mike Veach

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Interesting question! Now let's see if I can answer without having some corporate lawyer evict me from my house and driving my car. Actually, the answer is quite fascinating. But first of all, my hat is off to Linda, a very discerning lady!

The Buffalo Trace Distillery has long produced, aged, and bottled bourbon for other companies. This is no great secret. When I was with BF, the Early Times Distillery made much of the whiskey for Max after his stillhouse burned. The Eagle Rare is a perfect example. This bourbon was made both here and by the folks at UDV, according to the same recipe. We were just noting that the other day we purchased some stocks from them; the same ones that we sold to them a few years ago. The bottom line is that we generally have a hand in producing our different bourbon brands. Nothing under 10-12 years of age ever comes from anyplace other than Buffalo Trace. Some of the older whiskies are ours and some were owned by other companies. We just bought some wheated bourbon from UDV. The interesting thing was that we made the bourbon, aged it, and simply removed it from our warehouses and rolled the barrels to regauge. So, while we used bourbon that we produced, we did not own it until a few months ago. If our president is to be believed (Mark Brown), we have the largest collection of aged bourbon (15 plus years) in the world.

Just for the record. When Malt Advocate first rated the Eagle Rare 17, Sazerac Rye 18, and Weller 19, they gave the Eagle Rare the lowest score (93), however, since then it has received the highest. Wine Enthusiast and Paul Pacult have both given it high marks (96 and 5 stars). Internationally, the Eagle Rare sells more than the other two combined.

Finally, Eagle Rare does in fact use rye as the short grain in the recipe, no wheat.

Ken

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Veach:

> Pretty close but I think the Pappy 20 is better.

Agreed. The Weller 19 YO is awfully good, and the more I drink it the more I like it, but the edge goes to the old school Pappy 20. Enough of an edge to make it worth more than twice the Weller 19 YO. Nope. Does that stop me from buying both? Nope. Can I afford both? Nope.

Stotz

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Chris

With all this advice from our expert tasters what bourbon product did you buy?

boone

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Thanks, Ken. And thanks-plus for making yourself a source of candid answers for our insatiable curiosities. It's so refreshing to be able to "talk" with someone at a decision-making level who shares our fascination with the product, its makers, and its history. And one who isn't terrified to answer questions about them! If there were more like you throughout the industry, it would be easier for Mike to write the book we all want him to :-))

You mentioned that Eagle Rare was made by BT and jointly by UDV. Does that mean that Seagram's themselves never actually made the whiskey but purchased it on contract? As I understand it, that's the way Wild Turkey was made until the '70s when Austin Nichols finally purchased their major supplier, the Ripy Bros. distillery. But Seagram's already owned distilleries -- was (is) it more economical to purchase and bottle than to produce sometimes? Also, I may not care to describe flavor details, but I can certainly distinguish them; there's a marked similarity between the current 10-year-old Eagle Rare and the 17-year-old. I believe it's not (as Linda suggested it COULD be) just any old bourbon that BT found lying around the warehouse. Is there a formula specific to Eagle Rare that makes it different? And if most of what distinguishes one bourbon from the next occurs AFTER the company's standard formula is distilled, at just what point does Buffalo Trace bourbon actually become Buffalo Trace, or Hancock Reserve, or Eagle Rare, or Kentucky Rain, etc. I know that barrels of what will become Blanton's are selected early in the aging process and moved to a particular area of warehouse H, and Buffalo Trace itself is also warehouse-specific, but that whole process is fascinating to me. When you buy Eagle Rare or Old Charter from another distillery, is it really Eagle Rare or Old Charter yet? Is 2010's Eagle Rare being made today, or is something that's ten years old and fits the flavor profile bottled as Eagle Rare every year?

By the way, I had to laugh over how your modesty comes through even while bragging. I'm glad to know Malt Advocate has increased its opinion of Eagle Rare 17, but I sure wouldn't have been exactly embarassed if my whiskey earned a 93! You mentioned that Eagle Rare outsells the other two combined worldwide; isn't that a function of availability? I thought there were only a couple hundred cases of the rye in existance. Aren't they all gone yet? That goes back to a question I asked earlier... is there currently 17 year old rye, and 16, and 15, etc. so as to make the Sazerac Rye 18 year old brand continuous even though the original couple hundred barrels are long gone? When was the newest batch of rye produced?

=John=

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

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I have done some background investigation and can report the following. Eagle Rare 17 is our proprietary mash bill Rye-1, made at Leestown (Buffalo Trace) in 1981. Elmer is curently looking over my shoulder to make sure I tell it straight! This recipe, combined with special aging considerations leads to Eagle Rare.

You are correct in that most (perhaps much) of the character of bourbon is determined after it is distilled and put in the barrel. Buffalo Trace is somewhat unique in that we have five different mash recipes. So in our case, it would not be correct to assume that aging is the primary factor, though it remains right up there. I should also note that Blanton's barrels are not selected early in the aging process (per se). We know that barrels placed in special areas of particular warehouses tend to produce superior bourbon, however, that bourbon may become Hancock's, Rock Hill, Blanton's, Eagle Rare, or Buffalo Trace. It depends upon the recommendation of our taste panel. The three primary panelists are Elmer, Gary, and Harlen Wheatley. Over the next several years, you will hear more and more about Harlen. Both Elmer and Gary have told me that his talents are simply unbelievable. It looks like in the next 5-10 years, he will become our new Master Distiller. Anyway, they decide which barrels will be bottled under which label. It is important to note that they reject far more barrels than they accept. It is also important to note that many of our single barrels have no age statement. Just because a bourbon is nine years doesn't mean squat! It could be green or overly woody. Only by repeatedly tasting the same barrels can it be judged correctly.

I can't answer your question about Seagram's actual production, because I don't know the answer. Elmer just said that Schenley (Buffalo Trace) often produced long on inventory. In the 60s and 70s, a gentleman named David Gordon made production decisions based on estimated usage 7-8 years down the road. He often padded these numbers, knowing that he could sell the excess bulk whiskey on the open market. Wild Turkey and Heaven Hill were frequent customers. One of the reasons we bought the distillery was because of the aged stock residing here.

I know I am rambling, but I am on a roll. We have inventory for our 17,18, and 19 year whiskies, however, they will be thin for the next 5 years. After that, it should begin to catch up. Finally, you ask about purchasing Charter (the label) and the bourbon to make it- how do we determine if it is Charter yet? The reality is that part of the purchase agreement usually includes a few years inventory of barrels. In truth, we often made the bourbon in the first place.

Ken

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Heehee..Actually, I got both! My sister surprised me with a bottle of Rare Breed, and I got a bottle of Booker's from my Dad. So, I used my bonus on my second love...and bought a bunch of jazz and blues CDs.

Thanks guys-your input was valuable.

Chris

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Great, Chris! "Free bourbon" as gifts and a chance to use your bonus on some music to set the mood while drinking it! Lucky man, you are!

If you wish, post your comments on both bourbons. I believe they are both very nice but also different. Of course, Bookers is never the same (range in proof at the least). I must suggest the Ky. Spirit to you for some future purchase. I'm trying to "save" the bulk of my bottle but it is difficult to resist the temptation. It certainly tasted good last night.

Greg

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Okay all you distillers, brand managers, and such from the other distilleries who're lurking out there. Here's yet another example of why you should participate like Ken does. Besides helping to fill in some historical gaps and give a better picture of what goes on in this industry, Ken has managed to revive my interest in a brand I had pretty much written off.

Ken, I think the bottle of Benchmark that I have may be from the Heaven Hill period. It wouldn't win a Best-in-Show medal if it were the only brand entered. Not even in England, where (let's face it) things like persimmon wine and malmsy and even (choke) SCOTCH for heavens sake, sometimes take prizes!

Seriously, though, it's a bottle that will likely never be emptied, so there's been no incentive to replace it. Until now, that is. You can bet our next foray to the land of the Party Source will result in a brand new bottle of Benchmark! By the way, does the changeover to Buffalo Trace product correspond with the "McAfee's" now on the label? Ours doesn't have that, although we have a nice Old Fashioned glass with the Seagram's Benchmark label printed on it. We also have a bottle of Benchmark Single Barrel, and that's much better-tasting.

=John=

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

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Buffalo Trace is big on history. The site of the distillery happens to be the first settlement of the Frankfort area. A surveyor named McAfee laid out the first site and he placed an "offering" to the country into a "small, fresh flowing stream, (some arrowheads and a surveyor's benchmark). The name was significant and we highlighted McAfee to sort of stamp our brand on the brand, so to speak.

I must admit that the Single Barrel is the better product, but at the current price and positioning, sales of Benchmark have grown by about 60%.

Ken

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Actually, I can hardly wait to try a new bottle of Benchmark. In fact, I may just fight rush-hour traffic and go tonight... nah -- nothing's worth crawling through Covington/Erlanger/Florence at 5:30. But Saturday for sure!

...A surveyor named McAfee laid out the first site and he placed an "offering" to the country into a "small, fresh flowing stream, (some arrowheads and a surveyor's benchmark)..."

Well I can sure understand that. In fact, I've occasionally placed some "offerings" into "small, fresh flowing" streams at times myself, although I sure do hope the new Benchmark I'm about to purchase reminds me less of them than the one I've tried did :-))

=John=

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

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Greg,

I have in the past been wishy washy on sharing my own tasting notes. But, I would climb the rooftops of the French Quarter to shout to all of the world how absolutely amazing my bottle of Booker's tastes! Hell, for Linn,I may even do it with my pants off! I have been on such a Booker's kick since I got the bottle that I have not even sampled the Rare Breed yet. All of the usual things are there...the "caramel", the "Oakiness"...the "bigness". It reminds me of a young California Zin in its bigness. The one thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was how smooth it was...even with the barrel proof. In summary, I am enjoying it.

Chris

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