Blanton’s Single Barrel is one of the most revered and sought-after bourbons on the market. And, if I’m being completely honest, that’s always pushed me away from the brand. I was above the hype for a while. Then, after re-tasting the whole line, I gave into it completely.
Now, I don’t shut up about Blanton’s. Yup, I’m that bourbon drinker. I even like the figurines on the corks.
Since I’m deep on this Blanton’s wave, I thought I’d rank their three core bottles — the Single Barrel, Gold, and Straight From The Barrel expressions. I was going to include the Special Reserve but that’s still only an international release (for the U.K.) and a fleeting one at that.
This is a look at each of the three core bottles and an examination of how they stack up, flavor-wise. As you can see from the photo below, I was doing some “research” over the weekend to keep things up to date.
If any of these bottles jump out at you, click on the prices to give them a try!
3. Blanton’s Single Barrel
Average Price: $110
Buffalo Trace’s Blanton Single Barrel is made up of hand-selected single barrels that meet the sky-high standards of former Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee, who created the expression back in 1984.
There’s a clear sense of Christmas spices right away, leaning towards honey spiked with vanilla and an old cedar cigar humidor. The taste holds onto the spice, especially nutmeg, as caramel kettle corn, more fresh honey, fresh red berries, and vanilla husks dominate the palate. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome as hints of eggnog spice, dry vanilla, and popped corn surface on the fade.
I had no idea what to rank third on this list. The very idea is kind of ridiculous. This is a great bourbon, a great single barrel, and a great whiskey in general. The only thing that maybe brought it down a notch was the low ABV. It’s not like it was watery. It’s more that I’m not sure it needs to be quite so low after tasting it right next to the Gold and cask strength versions.
2. Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel (Barrel No. 159)
Average Price: $400
Blanton’s is “The Original Single Barrel” bourbon, and this expression is the purest form of that whiskey. The juice in this case is from the barrels that need no cutting with water and are perfect as-is, straight from the barrel. All the barrels will come from Warehouse H (where Elmer T. Lee stored his private stash of barrels back in the day) and arrive with varying proofs.
The through-line is the excellent taste of that single, unadulterated barrel in each sip.
The nose is full of very bespoke dark chocolate-covered salted hard caramel toffees encrusted with almonds and pecans — the kind you get from a chocolate shop that imports their goodies from somewhere like Belgium. The nutty toffee carries through into the taste as oily vanilla pods mingle with cedar boxes of dried tobacco leaves and a touch of floral honey. The end is very long and lingers in your senses, with a hot buzzing that subtly fades through all that sweetness.
This is a little warm on the nose and palate. A single rock turned this into something magical. But I was tasting these neat and ranking them like that, so a pretty impeccable product ends up in the #2 slot.
I know this is a very “this porridge was too hot … this porridge was too cold” situation, but I have to find some way to rank these!
1. Blanton’s Gold
Average Price: $440
This single barrel masterpiece was made for the international market but is now available widely in the U.S., albeit for a hefty price. The juice is all about the refinement of the single barrel aging process, with masterful finishing to bring this down to a very drinkable 102 proof.
There’s a big greeting on the nose with notes of spicy tobacco leaves next to honey, dark berries, and orange oils. The palate carries those notes forward while leaning into the tobacco and amping up the rye pepperiness then balancing it with a bit more honey and caramel. The finish takes its time fading out as notes of vanilla, spice, and oak linger — with a final billow of pipe tobacco popping at the very end.
This really hit well on this go-around. It’s so goddamn soft and refined while still holding onto big notes that make it “Blanton’s.” That citrus, honey, berries, tobacco, spice … everything just works.
This wound up first because this was the dram I wanted to drink again, right after the tasting. That’s got to say something.
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