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!