Biases are completely inherent; our tendencies to lean towards a certain whiskey, a specific region, or a particular batch all affect our day-to-day purchases.
From my reviews and bio, you may have noticed that I’m biased towards Irish whiskies… not influenced by any means, but I will typically buy and review solely Irish. Taylor, not always, but normally will purchase and review Bourbons. The heuristics produced by our brain quickly connect good times, great liquid, and guaranteed whiskey pleasure with our favourite acquisitions.
A regular occurrence for me when buying another bottle is to strongly consider Redbreast 12-year-old: an easy drinker, cheap, spicy, and just a classic all-rounder. Now, I ought to be broadening my Irish-biased palate, although I tend to stick to my well-knowns… but why is this? I suppose I like to play it safe; £50 goes a long way these days, and I fear buying something less remarkable than the Redbreast will always have me re-evaluating. Well, today is the day when I go a little left field and try something much further from home: a bourbon, and – from what I’ve been reading – a reasonably popular one at that.
Simplistically speaking, there are several differences between bourbons and Irish whiskey. Both are fond of calling their product “whiskey” with an “e,” and the use of combinations of column reflux and copper pot stills are the only real similarities… and that’s about it. For Ireland as a nation, which migrated six million people to America since 1820, I would have thought there would have been more Irish influence, but maybe that’s just me. Mash bills differ, although they are becoming less dissimilar now, with the Irish technical file recently being updated to include more cereals for their pot still whiskey. Maturation for bourbon is strictly new, charred American oak casks, whereas Ireland has the freedom to finish their whiskey as they please.
The range of bourbons is quite frankly prodigious, and I have therefore gone for Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon. The only reason this is the case is that I’ve recently followed a few bourbon pages, and this is the one that is perpetually on my screen and, supposedly, quite often in demand. Now I’m not going to do a comparison review, mainly for the reasons I’ve outlined above. Irish whiskey and bourbon are two separate entities, so I’ll judge this bourbon solely on its own merits. This particular one has been reviewed by Taylor before in an experiment; he has also provided a history of the Taylor namesake (the whiskey’s, not his). Mark also considered the Single Barrelexpression before, albeit short; it’s always refreshing to get new eyes and palates on things and score them accordingly.
As Mark alluded to, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor was one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry. His dedication to distilling began at the close of the Civil War when he purchased O.F C. Distillery (a National Historic Landmark known today as Buffalo Trace Distillery). There, he developed innovative techniques that are still in use today. Made by Buffalo Trace, this Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey has been aged inside century old warehouses constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. As a man, Colonel E.H. has been quite influential, from being a driving force behind the “Bottled-in-Bond Act” and pioneering climate-controlled aging in warehouses, I feel like I’ve got quite the bourbon here to start my impending love affair
Colonel E.H. Taylor offers quite the range, but it’s the humble small batch that I will try and dissect for you all. It’s a non-aged statement, but more than four years to meet the requirements of the “Bottled in Bond” designation. As stated previously, it’s aged in charred, new American oak casks and comes in at a healthy 50% ABV. It’s currently ticking all the right boxes for me, although the pricing at £95 (Amazon) leaves a bit to be desired. I understand there’s a lot of hype around Buffalo Trace offerings, and it’s something I appreciate given the enthusiasm for Redbreast one-off releases presently. However, one thing I can get used to is the 750ml bottling… that extra 50ml is enough to convince me.
E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch – Review
Colour: Deep copper.
On the nose: Lashings of spiced vanilla with butterscotch. Lots of subtle sweetness too, with predominantly honey and light caramel coming through beautifully. There’s also some leather, with dried tea and shoe polish towards the back end of the nose.
In the mouth: The palate certainly lives up to the nose, and there’s abundant spice added to it. Cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns all dominate the palate, but there are still hints of burnt crème caramel and spent tobacco. The sweetness lingers on, and the black liquorice comes through plentifully, giving nice depth and all-round balance. The finish carries on with the spice, but the texture changes ever so slightly to a creamier mouthfeel, and chilli chocolate comes out strikingly, giving an enjoyable kick to the end.
[puts body armour on]
To be honest, I’ve always found bourbon a bit one dimensional, hence my stance on trying mostly Irish whiskeys, Scotch, and the odd anomaly here and there. Given there’s only one way you can really make “bourbon” with little room for manoeuvre on the mash bill, how different can you truly make it? This is probably one of about five or six bourbons I’ve ever tried, so I’ll try to be objective.
It is enjoyable to drink, and I’m not just saying that to appease Malt’s impassioned bourbon fanbase. It hits all the right notes for a bourbon; it’s got that characteristical bourbon vanilla and caramel-y type nose with lots of depth on the palate, including the spice, which is lovely. There is, however, nothing in this bottle that makes me think, “Wow, this bottle is worth the £95 I paid for it.” It’s slightly perplexing.
I will endeavour to try more Bourbons, Tennessee whiskies, and whatever else from the good old US of A in the upcoming months. I hope to broaden my palate, especially within Buffalo Trace, where this bourbon comes from. I’m just unsure of the hype surrounding this; perfectly nice for sipping, but certainly not something which makes me want to change my drinking habits. I will, of course, re-review given my broadening adventure, and if all the rest of the bourbons I try are terrible, then I may just increase this score. Bourbon suggestions are welcome, please!
A bourbon review by someone who doesn’t like bourbon. Awesome waste of time.
Phil, the world of whisk(e)y is a big one, and part of that entails experimenting with regions/styles outside of our personal favorites. I wouldn’t like to be told not to review Scotch or Japanese or Canadian or Irish whisky (just because they don’t happen to be my normal pours), and I don’t imagine our contributors would take kindly to being told what they can and cannot drink. So long as someone feels motivated to taste, evaluate, and review a given whiskey, they’re welcome to do so here on Malt. Come back tomorrow… or don’t. Either way, have a blessed day.
I have no issue with your review, as such, but I am slightly surprised by your comment that “…there’s only one way you can really make “bourbon” with little room for manoeuvre on the mash bill, how different can you truly make it?” If lack of flexibility on mash bill was the issue, wouldn’t single malt scotch be considered even more restrictive? There isn’t really a mash bill at all – barley, barley and barley. 🙂 At least with bourbon there can be some variation – yes, at least 50% corn, but some are more rye-heavy, some have wheat, etc. I do understand your underlying point, though, in terms of bourbon, relatively speaking, having a narrower range of stylistic variation than some other whisk(e)y. But my sense is that this has more to do with the requirement to use new, heavy char barrels for bourbon, meaning the wood tends to dominate the distillate, particularly for the majority of bourbons on the market that are young. If single malts, for example, were all required to be aged in first fill sherry casks and the majority of them were released at age five years or younger, I suspect there would not be much perceived variation in single malt flavor profile, either.
Michael, aside from that fact that rye and bourbon have to be aged in new oak, most of the styles produced these days are really oak heavy. Rye and bourbon can be made to have a stronger distillate flavor which can stand up to the new oak’s flavor. Imo, Four Roses Single Barrel is one of these. Leopold Bro’s bourbon would be a less popular example.
With young 1st fill sherry cask matured single malt, it would depend on the production style. A single malt that went through a still that uses worm tubs would result in a heavier spirit that stand up to the sherry flavor.
John, I agree that the sherry cask analogy isn’t perfect – I was just pointing out essentially the same point you were making, which is that the charred oak casks in bourbon tend to dominate the flavor profile. A sherry bomb was the nearest analogy I could think of for single malt. STR, virgin oak, etc could be other examples of wood dominance. But bourbons are not all distilled exactly the same, either. The wood is just always more prominent, by design.
Agreed on all points, Michael. Cheers.
Clearly you don’t have clue. Stick to what you know….
What a surprise, another whiskey scored with a 5 or 6. Welcome to Malt, where we think whiskey is middling.
If anything, it seems that the common scores reflect the general direction today’s whiskies and the whisky industry, as a whole, are taking. What do you think of that idea, Greg?
I think Taylor and team fashion themselves as contrarians. It’s tiring.
Greg, the middling scores here are just a reflection of the situation whisky is in these days. The huge demand makes it hard it for the brands to maintain the quality.
Accurate, informed and interesting. Thank you for such an informative review!
David, I’d recommend you try reliable and readily available brands like Wild Turkey, Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Four Roses and Eagle Rare.
What a HACK! Yeah let’s have some hipster no Bourbon drinker rate this Bourbon. What will he give Blanton’s a 1. What a dipshit. How about you don’t review stuff you don’t have a palate for and stick to Red Bull and Vodka.
Wow, David really knows his stuff. What a guy. 10/10 for David
What a shocking review. Like one post mentioned about single malt, IE one malt, and the reviewer calls bourbon limited due to malt? Sounds like someone who doesn’t really understand what they are talking about. This is a class bourbon, anyone with a half decent palette could tell you that. You guys need to up your game.
Love the article, not the rating particularly. I would recommend Blanton’s Gold label, 103 proof, 700 ml availability or Blanton’s Full Proof usually 120+ proof. Couple drops of water with that one. I will mention I have a bottle of Redbreast 27 year, batch#2 that I can’t wait to try.
Well these comments sure are entertaining!
I haven’t tried any of the EHT range and if the hoarder’s photos on social media of 6-deep rows of the entire Buffalo Trace line are any indication, I probably never will. However, based on what I’ve read elsewhere, and from the bourbons distilled by Buffalo Trace that I’ve managed to acquire, a score of 5 seems perfectly reasonable if one were to bother examining the malt scoring band. These bourbons aren’t transcendent.
I think Jigs nailed it with his comment that scores of 5 & 6 are pretty indicative of the industry today. Hype doesn’t make something taste better.
Thank you for reviewing this EH Taylor. My personal experiences started with bourbon 20 years ago, and then within 5 years, moved on to Scotch. I have friends who are passionate bourbon drinkers, and I have attempted to find bourbon that displays the wide variety of scent, and flavor profiles that I value in Scotch. For example, notes like coal dust, or pencil shavings (Springbank), or things like seaweed, and iodine (Ardbeg/Laphroaig). It has not been easy to find that type of variability in bourbon.
So I highly value the perspective of someone who is not already a fanboy of BT products. Please continue with the reviews!
I just had a glass of this whilst reading your review. Whilst I agree with your comments, I think I personally rate it higher – but that is purely because whiskey/bourbon is subjective. Loved the whiskey, learned something from the review, good evening activity
This is a very fair and accurate review in my opinion. I’m coming from drinking scotch and I had a very similar experience with this one.
David, you’ve got a few things mixed up:
“Maturation for bourbon is strictly new, charred American oak casks, whereas Ireland has the freedom to finish their whiskey as they please.”
Bourbon can be matured in any wooden container made from any type of oak. Just has to be new and charred. A Vat? Indeed permissive. French Oak? Feel Free. American white oak ASBs are default but not mandated.
Also maturation and finish are not interchangeable. Bourbon can be finished with any cask you like, see Angels Envy for example. It just has to be matured in new oak FIRST. There’s no difference to Irish.
Irish however can be MATURED in Refill or wine casks and what-have-you.
This gets overlooked too often, i think even Wikipedia has it wrong.
Which goes to show, how important real research is, rather than just repeating what “the Internet” or some misinformed Tour Guide or indeed Brand Ambassador told you.
That said, great Review. You disclosed your bias, being a non-Bourbon drinker, which is fair enough imho. Let them grumble and throw dirt, someday they might understand, that 5/10 is not a bad rating.
I get where you’re coming from with this review. Personally, I’m much more a Scotch drinker, but I’ve been attempting to find some bourbons that approach the subtlety and range of flavors to be found in good Scotch. This search has yielded a few whiskeys that are “pretty good” but none of those have seriously challenged the best Scotch malts, in my opinion. The E. H. Taylor Small Batch BiB is one of the better bourbons I’ve tried, and I’ll pay $50.00 U.S. when I can find it. However, if it was priced closer to $100.00, I would have to take a pass. There are still a number of excellent Scotch whiskys at that price that, to me, will provide a more satisfying experience. For that matter, if E. H. Taylor Small Batch was priced the same as Knappogue Castle 14yo (@ $75.00 locally) I would get the Knappogue Castle without hesitation. Every time.