Buffalo Trace is a bourbon with a minimum of eight years of barrel age. This flagship bottling is marked by flavors of butterscotch, toffee, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cracked pepper, with a silky caramel note that wraps itself around all that zing and punch on the finish.
Classification: Kentucky straight bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Cask type: first-use American white oak
Still type: column
Aged: 9 years minimum
Mash bill: corn, rye, malted barley
Awards won: Silver, 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition; Gold, World Whiskies Awards; Silver, 2019 New York World Spirits Competition; Gold, 2019 Los Angeles International Spirits Competition; Gold, 2019 American Whiskey Masters, and more
- Great bang for the buck
- Aged for a minimum of eight years, a long time for an entry-level bourbon
- Bourbon connoisseurs may opt for a more “advanced” bottling, possibly another from Buffalo Trace’s line.
- The final notes of spice and barrel char may be a bit too biting for those new to bourbon.
Color: Rich mahogany-hued golden brown, as bourbon should look after a minimum of eight years in a barrel
Nose: Rye strongly comes through and gives clear notes of vanilla bean, burned cinnamon, and allspice.
Palate: The rich butterscotch and toffee notes quickly morph into spice on the tongue, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cracked pepper, likely from the presence of rye.
Finish: While spice and char dominate, a silky caramel note is present.
The Buffalo Trace name is meant to honor the routes, or traces, of the pioneers who ventured out into the wilds of North American in search of a life. One, the Great Buffalo Trace, led to a settlement near Frankfort, Kentucky, where the distillery was born and has produced some of the finest American whiskey for more than 200 years. But even if Davy Crockett tales of the American migration west don’t excite you, the distillery’s spice-driven well-aged whiskeys certainly will.
The Sazerac Company bought the George T. Stagg Distillery and renamed it Buffalo Trace after the iconic bourbon. Since then, the distillery, which is also home to sought-after labels that include Pappy Van Winkle, has made the Buffalo Trace Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey its flagship bottling. And if you don’t happen to have the cash for Pappy, Buffalo Trace’s entry-level bottling makes a good alternate go-to.
Its spice-and-char-driven flavor renders the bourbon an excellent choice for a memorable Manhattan (and mixing in general with its 90-proof extra octane). When enjoyed neat, it’s slippery and spicy on the tongue, with silky notes of butterscotch; add a bit of water and it opens up with significant vanilla and allspice. It’s the benchmark whiskey to start with in understanding the Buffalo Trace line, which is well worth exploring.
Although it has had different names (the O.F.C. [Old Fashioned Copper] Distillery, the George T. Stagg Distillery), the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, claims the title of longest-continually operating distillery in the United States, despite being struck by lightning and having to quickly rebuild in 1882. Indeed, it did continue to operate all through Prohibition, producing “medicinal” spirit, and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2013.
The bottom line: Buffalo Trace straight bourbon whiskey is an incredible bang-for-the-buck value from one of the country’s most historical distilleries.