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Elmer T. Lee Bourbon Review

Buffalo Trace's 2nd bourbon mash bill features releases such as Ancient Age, Rock Hill Farms, Blanton's, Hancock's Reserve, and this bottle - Elmer T. Lee. The legendary master distiller who revived a slowly fading industry passed away at the ripe old age of 93. The distillery continues to honor Elmer T. Lee by producing his namesake single barrel sour mash bourbon.

Often the biggest complaint I hear about this bottle is its availability. It is absolutely factual that the demand for this brand far outpaces its supply. I've been drinking and searching for this bottle and its counterparts for a handful of years, only to turn up this singular bottle in the last 5. It was fortunately won in a raffle from a store who charges right at MSRP, so I am able to enjoy this ~$30 bourbon without reluctantly shelling out for costs at or approaching secondary (which are exorbitant). If you've had this bourbon before - what's the most you'd pay for a bottle? Drop me a comment at the bottom of this page. I'm curious!

Now that I've explored this bottle a few times before, I'm ready to give it a fair shake here. Let's get into this review.


Company on Label: Buffalo Trace Distillery

Whiskey Type: Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 (Higher Rye ~10-12%)

Proof: 90°

Age: NAS (though the age of Elmer T. Lee is rumored to be around 9-14 years)

Further identification: This is a 2020 release as known from time of purchase as well as the laser code (L20...)


Nose: Right away prevalent fruit sweetness wafts from the glass. Cherry, candied apple and strawberry are notable in the medley. Deep inhales produce a slightly synthetic vanilla. My nose perceives zero evidence of the presence of alcohol in this glass. Light biscoff cookie and bright black pepper sit in the nostrils. The nose-feel overall is slightly drying and thin. The notable absence of the fruit from the start removes most of the excitement from the glass. Nearly imperceptible wafts of caramel seem to hang up somewhere in the glass. Let's have a sip.

Coming back from a sip I find much more oak that was hidden behind the sweeter smells. Black pepper continues to be prominent. Overall there doesn't seem to be anything remarkable or unique about this particular barrel except for its incredible approachability. I think even a first time drinker could find something to like here. Late in the glass some subtle floral tones produce white flowering scents. The empty glass smells of soft caramel bread and warm air tinged with the metallic skeleton of a big city.

Palate: Yum - buttercream frosting and sugar cookie flavors jump onto the tongue. These tastes sit there in an oily pool with visions of bakery treats sitting atop parchment paper. The mouth feel is thin but creamy similar to how light proof Irish whiskeys usually feel. Another sip builds up bigger cherry skin, vanilla and ladyfinger notes. A larger sip and swish produces some decent heft for 90 proof giving off vanilla bean ice cream and sweet tart vibes. There's just a hint of some raspberry and tannic fermented fruit in the linger. Everything in the glass continues to be creamy and soft. The most delicious flavors start to appear near the bottom of the glass when strawberries and cream begins to produce softly with a sweet cereal backbone. This flavor proves to be fleeting in my final sip which shows up again with simple cherry skins. The finish adds sweet raspberry and slightly smoky vanilla.


Rating: 3/5

(Decent. I can go either way on it.)

Holistically unremarkable - this pour did have a few bright spots when sweet fruits delivered clear as day. I could certainly see this release getting lauded by those who value an easy sipper. I ultimately don't find it to be worth chasing personally, though I would definitely grab it at MSRP again if I had the chance. Cheers!

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