There is a simple explanation as to why we have not yet reviewed the famed Elmer T. Lee bourbon from Buffalo Trace: the secondary market bubble ruined everything and everything sucks now. A more nuanced and sophisticated explanation would be that the popularity explosion of the whiskey world has created a vibrant and robust secondary market and has thusly driven up the prices of bottles across the board, but especially so in the rare or hard to find bourbon category, among others. Yes, Pappy. Of course, Parker’s Heritage. Can’t forget the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection either. But I don’t think I could have predicted that Elmer T. Lee bourbon would be included in this niche category. And yet here we are.
The problem is that Elmer T. Lee is not in and of itself a knockout bourbon, or at least it was never really perceived as such, just a fine bourbon with decent quality, priced reasonably at around $45 bucks with a nice picture of Elmer on the bottle. Somehow, though, Elmer is rarely on the shelf, and if it is, and you’re in a non-price controlled store, you may have to pay $100 to possibly even $300 for it. And the reason why store owners can get away with that is because there is always some dumb rich dentist that will pay for it, regardless of how it tastes. My friends, today’s bottle is a great example of how pricing works in a whiskey boom: it doesn’t make too much sense, and there is little you can do about it. But on to particulars…
Elmer T. Lee was a long time Master Distiller of Buffalo Trace Distillery, and if I may be so bold, one of the very few Master Distillers in the industry that actually deserved the name. The whiskey in question is made from BT’s mash bill #2 with a high rye content approaching 15% and is bottled at 45% ABV. Also, ETL is a single barrel, so it’s possible one bottle may not taste the same as another.
Nose- Rye freshness with light vanilla and cream. Nutmeg and spices. Hay and citrus. Some oak and mint.
Taste- Watery and light. A bit flat. Boozy with cardboard. Rye spice.
Finish- Still boozy with young wood, sugar cane. Short.
Comment- This $300 bottle starts with some promise, but utterly falls flat with taste and finish. What a disappointment. The last Elmer I tried was similar and I ended up giving the bottle away. What is going on in the bourbon world?
SWC Rating- 78/100
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.
I just won the right to buy a bottle in the LCBO lottery in Ontario, $60 Cad. I am looking forward to what I can get from my friends in NY in trade. This review is just what I needed to push me to the trade for a much better bottle of Bourbon/Rye.
I agree the ETL is not as good as I would expect for the money but I do think it is better than Angels Envy and Makers 46. Thanks for the great reviews!