Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon Review

Whiskey Name: Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Straight bourbon (Bottled in Bond)

Release Date: 2017

Price: RRP was about $70. And if you can find a bottle at that price then you should probably get a job in the Secret Service.

Age: 12 years

ABV: 50%

Mashbill: Buffalo Trace are spoilsports and don’t tell you. Includes corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley.

Introduction/Background: Of all the price discrepancies between bourbon in the US and bourbon in the UK, Colonel E.H. Taylor is amongst the most extreme. Certainly in terms of whiskies from mainstream distilleries. Core range starts at about £100 East of the Atlantic, and at that price you can practically hear the cackles of derision from the other side of the ocean.

Today’s pour is not from the core range, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it had given the flagships something of a sales boost in the latter stages of this year. It’s the Four Grain, which a chap in a hat rated rather highly.

Like all the releases bearing the famous Colonel’s name, this carries the Bottled-in-Bond badge; tribute to the Act which Taylor himself was so influential in bringing to pass. Its mashbill contains an unspecified quantity of the four main bourbon grains, and a bottle can very easily be yours if you’re prepared to sell just two or three vital organs to a Russian oligarch.

Appearance: Maple syrup

Nose: Loads and loads of upfront fruity caramel. It’s quite fresh caramel though; not terribly deep. Floral honey aspects too, and a little muscovado. The tiniest touch of acetone, which comes as something of a surprise, given the age. Very citrussy; dried oranges as well as fresh orange zest. The wheat seems to have more of a hand on the tiller than the rye; spices are very much a secondary consideration, and the DNA seems closer to the Weller family than to the Stagg. Slight hazelnut – Nutella even – as it sits.

Mouth: Deliciously silky delivery; the fruity, floral caramels and honeys mean that this whiskey glides across your palate with barely a prickle. Really classy mouthfeel. Orange and candied lemon swell alongside the caramel. Honey takes a turn for the manuka (though I had a load of manuka honey last month – maybe it’s just on the brain!)

Finish: Things dry out and deepen on the finish; cinnamon creeps in, followed by very pronounced hazelnuts, cereal and wholemeal. The lightest flutter of black pepper and rye spice play in the background.

Value for Money: Very good at RRP. And then you wake up and it was all just a beautiful dream.

Summary: One of those bourbons I’d describe as really, properly elegant. I don’t know what the mashbill was, but it does (to me) seem to be more influenced by its wheat than by its rye. The mouthfeel in particular screamed wheat, and was one of the highlights of the experience.

It’s great stuff. It almost feels like an academic exercise in bourbon making really; everything’s so polished and so technically ‘correct’. It isn’t especially brash or bellow-y, it’s just really well made, really complex, really accomplished stuff.

Thing is, and this is possibly just me, it seems to have lost a bit of personality in the process. It’s a bit of a teacher’s pet, if that makes sense. So afraid to make mistakes that a bit of joie de vivre and – dare I say it – character, has slipped away. I’m not saying all whiskey has to be big and bold and statement-making, but this one felt a little too polished.

That’s a deeply niche criticism; we’re well into nerd territory there, and the whiskey remains an excellent, excellent pour. One of the standouts on a night of standouts when BBS met Jim Murray for a tasting a few weeks back.

You won’t find it at RRP, and it’s not worth paying the extremes you’ll be asked for on secondary, but do try this bourbon if you get a chance. It’s terrific.

Overall Verdict: Stellar and extremely complex – if slightly reserved – stuff. Not quite my bourbon of the year personally, but it’d sniff around the top 5 for sure