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Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey Review

For all of the hype, attention and mania that Buffalo Trace whiskeys tend to generate, it’s always been clear that the company’s rye whiskeys are on a somewhat different, lower tier in terms of the rabid consumer demand. Oh sure, they still sell out immediately wherever they’re available–once the bourbon is gone. By and large this makes sense, as Buffalo Trace has treated rye as a somewhat more niche product without as many SKUs on the shelf. For the core BT Rye mashbill, it’s just the likes of Sazerac Rye, aka “Baby Saz,” and then the highly sought-after entries in the Antique Collection, Sazerac Rye 18 Year and Thomas H. Handy rye. Beyond that, there’s the unobtanium of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Year Old Rye, and the significantly more accessible E.H. Taylor Straight Rye. But in terms of barrel proof rye? Well it’s honestly just the Thomas H. Handy, which was always a little surprising–shouldn’t there have been a cask strength rye from BT available on a more regular basis? And now there is, in the form of E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey. Granted, you probably won’t be likely to see it much more often than the Thomas H. Handy, but it’s nice to know it’s out there, right?

Whiskey geeks will want to note that this actually isn’t the same distillate as the Thomas H. Handy, because the E.H. Taylor Jr. rye distillate is different than the rye that goes into the Sazerac/Pappy Van Winkle series. This is noted as a “high rye” mash bill, potentially with zero corn (just rye and malted barley), although as is always the case with Buffalo Trace mash bills it’s a mystery. The age statement is likewise not divulged. What we do know is that this is bottled at a robust 63% ABV (126 proof), at a hilariously specific MSRP of $77.99. You can place your bets now on what the actual price will be from price gouging retailers and price gouging whiskey bars.

But let’s put that all aside for an objective assessment of the liquid itself, which BT/Sazerac was nice enough to send a sample for. It’s unclear how often this will be released going forward, but we would assume E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof Rye will share the same annual release date as the bourbon in the series. So, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, sweet impressions swell up right away, with lots of caramel and orange cream, along with butterscotch and dried stone fruit, mostly apricots. There are layers of floral impressions and more green rye spice here, along with an impression of glazed nuts. This is a pretty sweet nose overall for even a Kentucky-style rye, and I get the sense that the proof has contributed pretty significant sweetness/richness in this expression.

On the palate, E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof Rye displays big sweetness and pepper right away, with heavy spice and herbal rye tones, and a little grassiness. Sweetness comes across as honey and a little butterscotch, with apricot and juicy orange fruit. The overall approach is big and bold–things are cranked up to maximum assertiveness here. With that said, the proof is actually incorporated quite well, and this doesn’t read as particularly hot for the proof point. That allows the sweeter side to play itself up more, with layers of honey and fruit, tamed by modest spiciness, herbal flashes and trailing oakiness evoking both sawed lumber and freshly charred oak. This latter note contributes some moderate astringency, keeping the dram from feeling entirely candy-like.

All in all, this one comes in swinging with a bang, providing one of the boldest takes out there on rye whiskey from Buffalo Trace. It’s not the most delicate, but I imagine that most of the target consumers will quite enjoy this. I generally hate descriptions that attempt to pitch new products as “a rye for bourbon drinkers,” but this is one of those scenarios where the profile and sweetness probably will make it a very popular crossover. Keep an eye out for its limited release.

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
City: Louisville, KY
Style: Kentucky straight rye whiskey
ABV: 63% (126 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $78 MSRP


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer and spirits geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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