Part of the once-yearly Buffalo Trace "allocation season" that accompanies the oft-overhyped Pappy Van Winkle lineup, Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof has typically garnered general approval from the whiskey community writ large. I've written about these releases in previous years, having thoroughly enjoyed batches 9 through 11 prior to today. Despite not really caring to 'hunt' this years allocations, I managed to luck into this release from an old favorite liquor store of mine.
If you're newer to the bourbon space, I understand that these batch numbers might be a little confusing. What we have today is the 131.1 proof release that carries the L23 laser code, meaning it was bottled and released in 2023 from the Buffalo Trace distillery. If you're ever struggling to figure out which proof corresponds to which batch like me, I've compiled a helpful list. Here are all of the Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof batches by proof and by year:
Batch 1: 134.5° (2012)
Batch 2: 135.4° (2013)
Batch 3: 129.0° (2014)
Batch 4: 127.2° (2015)
Batch 5: 127.5° (2016)
Batch 6: 128.1° (2017)
Batch 7: 129.7° (2018)
Batch 8: 129.3° (2019)
Batch 9: 130.3° (2020)
Batch 10: 127.3° (2021)
Batch 11: 129.0° (2022)
Batch 12: 131.1° (2023)
As usual, I've tasted this at least 3 times (in accordance with my editorial policy) before offering you my full review thoughts so that you can trust I've done a thorough job & not had an odd-ball one-off experience. This is a well triangulated opinion that I'm honored to bring to you, my dear reader. Without further ado, let's dive in and see what this year's Taylor barrel proof release is all about.
Company on Label: Old Fashioned Copper Distillery (Buffalo Trace)
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (Low Rye < 10%)
Age: NAS (supposedly 6-8 years)
Further identification: Batch 12 is the 2023 release of Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof which first released in 2012; it carries an MSRP of $70, though it's worth mentioning that many stores will sadly mark this up well beyond that
Nose: Lifting the glass to my nose I find a rich mocha tone that is soothing and sweet. Saccharine strawberry laffy taffy is prominent on deep inhales. Brown sugar and rich oak suggest a higher age statement than is rumored for this release. Fizzy root beer scents bubble up as the glass opens with time. Deep caramel aromas build a strong support structure to an enjoyable bourbon introduction.
Coming back from a sip reveals potent linen tones, much like Stagg releases usually do for me. Your classic candied cherry that is conventional for the E.H. Taylor lineup is definitely in the mix. Exploring further I find there are hints of salinity, like walking past the lobster tank in the seafood section of the grocery store. Late in the glass the aromas return to that 'classic Kentucky bourbon' medley. It's simple to explore and fairly rewarding as most well-aged bourbon from Buffalo Trace tends to be.
Palate: Rich, classic bourbon hits the tongue right away; think cherry and caramel in spades. Another sip layers in milk chocolate, walnut bread, and sweet pecan. Much like the nose I get a bit of creamy strawberry somewhere in the middle that flashes across the tongue. The linger is short to medium with more dark, savory, bready tones. It's a classic, oaky bourbon that's been sufficiently aged, but doesn't scream complexity. Sipping later in the glass shows off hints of anise, Dr. Pepper, and sweet cherry pipe tobacco smoke. Now that the depth of the whiskey starts to ramp up a bit, spruce boughs and damp earth say "get outside you fool." Ultimately it lacks the captivation that a good whiskey will typically hold me in. Holding the whiskey in your mouth for extended periods of time is the most rewarding as Werther's caramel chews melt away revealing cinnamon and allspice. The proof here feels much like a crutch for an otherwise lackluster bourbon - a flash and a tingle on the tongue hopefully exciting the attention away from the lack of soul or meaningful character. My last sip shows off hints of licorice, root beer barrel candy, and level oak. The finish is short and proofy in its delivery as a wave of cardboard and oak rise through the chest.
TL;DR: A quotidian blend of Kentucky bourbon from Buffalo Trace
Overall this feels like a less complex Stagg Jr batch. It has moments of glory in which I was considering a 4 out of 5 score, but ultimately with several tastings failing to register any real emotion or excitement out of me, this leaves me feeling like this is a middle-of-the-road bourbon. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, and I'm certainly glad to have a bottle on my shelf. If you're interested in diving a little deeper, let's compare this release to the previous 2 batches below!
Bonus Head to Head to Head: Batch 10 vs 11 vs 12
Batch 10 was a great follow on to batch 9 which was one of my favorites. Batch 11 slumped a little in excitement, but was still a solid bourbon with plenty of unique characteristics. Let's revisit 10 & 11 to see where 12 stacks up against them!
On the nose:
Nosing batch 12 first sets the stage: classic oak, caramel, mocha, linen, and a hint of root beer. Later on: simple syrup and proof. The empty glass smells of rather plain, head-shakingly simple caramel.
Diving into batch 11... light funk, it produces even more linen & oak than 12 demonstrated. It's delicately fruity with brown sugar, molasses, and gingerbread. Sugar cookie notes jump out later on. The empty glass smells of old, dusty oak.
Batch 10 presents the most elegant, balanced and poised. Raspberry tart, chocolate, vanilla bean, and a slight maple sweetness dance in the glass. Mmmh. It's no surprise why I am on my 2nd bottle of this. The empty glass bursts with citrus, chocolate, and creamy elegance.
Nose Ranking: 10 > 11 > 12
On the palate:
For sipping through, I'll go in the reverse order as nosing. Batch 10 on first sip presents beautifully with candied cherry, syrupy grenadine, silky vanilla, well-aged wood influence galore, and it carries a great oily mouthfeel highlighting tart grape. Goodness gracious that is good bourbon. I forgot just how good that is. Is it bad that I don't want to move on?
Move on I must. Batch 11 lands with grace and ease on the taste buds with delicate orange peel not coming across too zesty. The glass continues to evolve quickly as notes of subtle cherry, strawberry, plum, and a creaminess I can't shake undulate across the tongue. The creamy vanilla undertone carries great notes of cinnamon, dates, and boozy amaretto. Yum. My goodness, it's so fruit forward... All the fruit you can imagine jump out of the glass.
At last, we move into batch 12 which punches above the other two glasses in the spice department, but it's not a distinct & digestible spice - it just seems to be proof. Sipping further reveals this glass really just isn't that special to me for whatever reason. I shake my head in general disappointment as compared to the other two glasses.
Palate Ranking: 10 > 11 > 12
Really batch 12 feels like a distant afterthought when compared to previous vintages of the barrel proof release. I'm quite disappointed to have spent my own money on this one and will certainly not be looking for a backup as I have done for previous batches. If you're still on the hunt for this one, I hope this review helped you out today. If it did, consider buying me a coffee! Cheers!