Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whiskey Wednesday: Colonel E.H. Taylor's Bourbon — It's a Twister, Auntie Em!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 7:43 AM

Buffalo Trace Distillery in Franklin County, Ky., has long been known for making premium bourbons. The oldest continuously operating distillery in America, for more than 200 years they have been distilling fine whiskey on the spot where the buffalo migration route crossed the Kentucky River. Not content to rest on their laurels, Buffalo Trace has continued to create new products and was recently named American Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year by Whisky magazine.

Their newest product is not only a damned fine bottle of bourbon, but it also has a fascinating story behind it. On April 2, 2006, a powerful line of storms tore through Central Kentucky, tearing apart two of Buffalo Trace's warehouses. Fortunately, one of them was empty, but the other was one of the distillery's most treasured warehouses. Warehouse C was built by Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. himself in 1881 and held 24,000 barrels of young and premature E.H. Taylor bourbon.

The barrels miraculously survived the storm, despite the fact that the walls and roof around it were ripped off, leaving them completely exposed. The barrels basically cooked through the summer as the warehouse was repaired around them. Summer heat is actually an integral part of the whiskey aging process, as the expansion that results from the rising temperatures drives the bourbon into the wood of the barrels and allows them to come in contact with the oak, which contributes the mellow flavors of fine whiskey.

But these extreme conditions resulted in an unusually high evaporation rate that left them with a unique wood flavor integration and an extremely high "angel's share" of 63.9 percent, more than double the normal loss due to evaporation. The bourbon that these greedy angels left behind exhibits a wonderfully spicy flavor profile with a beautiful nose and extremely complex finish.

Bottled at 100 proof, this rye-heavy mixture is the third in the Colonel E.H. Taylor series of special limited-release bourbons. Aged between nine and 11 years, this is truly a rare and special bottle of whiskey. Now, it's not cheap at $75.99 for a fifth, but this represents a chance to experience a little bit of history in a glass; and it's highly unlikely that circumstances like this will ever be repeated, even intentionally. Chalk up the high price to the limited availability and the fact that the angels took some of the finest hooch.

Currently available in very limited quantities in Nashville, it's not likely to show up on the shelves of your local liquor barn. But it can't hurt to ask your local purveyor to see if they might have a bottle or two hidden in the back room. Or you might be able to find it on the menu at some of our higher-end bars. Either way, if you happen across some, give it a try and see what happens when bourbon is too tough to die.

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