“Know how to listen and you will profit even from those who talk badly” — Plutarch
With the might of meteorological forces due to increase in both severity and frequency, I’m sure it would surprise very few bourbon enthusiasts to see emulations of E.H. Taylor’s vaunted “Tornado Surviving” expression hit the market. What did, however, come as a surprise was that in the beginning of last year Buffalo Trace announced a sequel-of-sorts to that offering and the subject of today’s review: E.H. Taylor Warehouse C.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and note that Buffalo Trace is often derided for their opportunistic deployment of line extensions and the term “limited edition.” Those who bemoan the tactics typically focus their umbrage on the fact that – given the popularity of their core brands – Buffalo Trace would do well to simply make more of their existing expressions. For what it’s worth, the E.H. Taylor lineup is as popular as any of their others, but it distinguishes itself in that, since it began in 2011, it has featured an annual limited release.
The limited edition from 2021, often simply referred to as Warehouse C, was a spiritual follow-up to 2012’s E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bourbon… though it’s worth examining just what makes the two similar and what makes them different. First up, they both have “Warehouse C” in the name! A nod to (you guessed it) the warehouse where each of these expressions was stored, which just so happened to be Edmund Haynes Taylor’s favorite barrel aging rickhouse.
Warehouse C was built by Taylor back in either 1881 or 1885; Buffalo Trace’s website cites the latter, while a plaque outside the warehouse notes the former. The original release of Tornado C has the distinction of “surviving” a 2006 tornado which severely damaged the roof of the warehouse. Unexpected exposure to that hostile climate created a unique bourbon which now fetches north of $3,000 in the few places it can still be found for purchase.
The 2021 edition of Warehouse C has not “survived” any unexpected acts of nature, though it did garner a whirlwind of interest from enthusiasts when it was first released… so much so that the secondary value of this bottle is currently in the exact same ballpark as its forebear, despite the fact they merely share the same general aging location.
At this point I should say outright that this is ludicrous. There are very few bourbons which should command a four-figure sum. While a case can be made for the unique circumstances that produced the E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bourbon warranting an exorbitant mark up, no such case can be made for E.H. Taylor Warehouse C bourbon.
It’s clear that Buffalo Trace listened when people raved about their first release to come exclusively from the tornado-torn barrel aging facility. Despite the more cynical crowd who sneered at the idea of “tornado surviving” being a marketing ploy, many critics at the time noted that the bourbon truly was a stand-out. In releasing this second act, we would all do well to not get caught up in the tempest of hype and instead temper our expectations.
At the end of the day this is simply E.H. Taylor bourbon sourced from a single facility and assembled in a blend. Ignoring the name of the warehouse, this should bear little difference to your typical E.H. Taylor Small Batch offering, though one should reasonably expect a substantial step up in quality owing to the fact it’s priced at almost double the cost and ostensibly selected with a higher standard because it is a limited edition.
Now let’s get to the specifics: this is a 10 year product that we are told comes from “the center of Warehouse C” with half of the barrels coming from the second floor and the other half from the fifth floor. For the more persnickety among us, it should be noted here that the “Tornado Surviving” expression consisted of barrels from the sixth floor, which is the highest in the warehouse, and thus the most exposed to the elements. Furthermore: like most E.H. Taylor expressions, this is bottled in bond which means it is 100 proof (50% ABV). Additionally, like all E.H. Taylor expressions, it is made with Buffalo Trace’s mashbill 1 which is their low rye recipe, though exact proportions are undisclosed. MSRP for this bottle is $69.99, which I will be using as the basis for this review despite the aforementioned insanity of the secondary market valuation. Lastly, this will be considered courtesy of a generous sample from a friend at no cost to me.
E.H. Taylor Warehouse C – Review
Color: Golden amber.
On the nose: Stewed rainier cherries leap out of the glass at first, ensconced in pie-like graham cracker notes, before being joined by vanilla pods, heavy cream, and star anise. There’s a leafy green beetroot note that plucks up at times throughout the nosing experience which serves as an interesting interruption more than an unwelcome one. At last, the cinnamon one expects when aromas of pie and vanilla are in the mix finds its way after repeat swirls and it’s joined by a touch of milk chocolate. I should remark that all of those sweet aromas are curt and don’t indicate an overly sweet palate.
In the mouth: Upon first sip I’m struck by the texture and finish more than the flavors. It has a great lingering mouthfeel and a restrained but prominent sizzle on the finish. As for the flavor, it favors the pronounced cherry notes of the nose and supplements that with vanilla ice cream. Between the effervescent texture/finish and the flavor combination it reminded me of a vanilla float with cherry cola. Again, that isn’t to say it was decadent in its sweetness; the presence of those flavors is unmistakable, but they aren’t grounded by much more than sweetness and some oak. The milk chocolate is absent but it’s replaced by an enigmatic faint spearmint note that keeps me going back to the glass.
On the one hand, I enjoyed this bottle… full stop. With that out of the way, not only is the secondary pricing of this bottle outrageous but, for a so-called “limited edition,” I don’t think it really does anything to warrant the designation. I hate to be that guy, but this isn’t much better than your average E.H. Taylor Single Barrels. Now, those are increasingly difficult to find as well but they can be had for significantly less money due to the simple fact that they don’t say “Warehouse C” on the front.
The suggested retail price of $70 is fair, but I think the “limited edition” designation is tough to justify. For anything over $100 I’d be hard pressed to buy this bottle, let alone for anything remotely close to the four-figure mark. While I don’t altogether blame Buffalo Trace for leaning in and calling this “Warehouse C” (which they had to know would incite the hype train) there’s definitely a perfect storm of wink-wink branding, a relatively quotidian flavor profile, and secondary sillyness that I feel justifies a docked point despite this being a solid offering at a reasonable retail price. Not that it matters, Buffalo Trace does a fine job of listening to their consumers, and turns a profit even when they talk badly.
Bottle photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace.