Friday, March 4, 2016

E. H. Taylor Is a Wheater?

The press release starts like this: "Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its homage to former Distillery owner Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. with a special release bourbon whiskey aged in seasoned wood oak barrels. This 100 proof, Bottled-In-Bond, small batch wheat recipe bourbon was aged well over a decade and is a special one-time-only release."

Huh? E. H. Taylor is a wheater? And oak is wood? Who knew?

The point of this product, as Buffalo Trace (Sazerac) sees it, is the special wood treatment. "The barrels in this release underwent a variety of special seasoning processes, including barrels made from staves that were immersed in an enzyme rich bath with water heated to 100 degrees. After spending time in this proprietary solution, these staves were then placed into kilns and dried until they reached an ideal humidity level for crafting into barrels. Other staves were seasoned outdoors for six months, and still others were left outdoors for a full 12 months before being made into barrels and sent to Buffalo Trace Distillery to be filled and aged. All barrel staves were seasoned, dried, and crafted at Independent Stave Company, who consulted on this project with the premiere expert on oak maturation, Dr. James Swan."

So three different barrels, the results all mixed together. That's why there is enough for a release broader than the usual Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection (BTEC) release. Okay, that's weird, but let's get back to this wheater thing. As the press release points out, this is the eighth E. H. Taylor release. All of the previous releases were rye recipe bourbon except for one, a straight rye.

Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Seasoned Wood Bourbon Whiskey should be in stores by the end of the month, for $70.

So does this mean E. H. Taylor is now a wheater going forward? No, this product is this product, although it certainly means E. H. Taylor could become a wheater again at any time in the future.

In response to my inquiry about how E. H. Taylor can be a wheater, I received this reply: "While the E. H. Taylor whiskeys to date have all been rye recipe, the experimental nature of this actually fits nicely with the EHT mark. As you know, Taylor himself was quite an innovator and risk taker. When we put these experimental whiskeys away, we really never know how they will turn out - we really like this one. The profile of this bourbon is different than Weller or Van Winkle. This is an exception to the rule; in fact, we don’t have any more wheat expressions planned for EHT."

When they say, "When we put these experimental whiskeys away, we really never know how they will turn out," they are leaving out part of the explanation. When they put experimental whiskeys away they don't know if they're ever going to release them, nor do they know how they'll release them if they do. This whiskey didn't go into barrels branded as E. H. Taylor. They didn't know what it would eventually be, if anything. If they come out at all, most experiments come out in the BTEC. For reasons known only to them, they decided to put this one out as E. H. Taylor instead.

This is something new. Several brands now, including E. H. Taylor, are selling a straight rye under the same brand name as a bourbon. There is good precedent for that. Many brands did it before Prohibition. Jim Beam has done it ever since Prohibition ended. Wild Turkey has done it for a long time as well. Newer brands such as Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Russell's Reserve, and Bulleit have followed suit. George Dickel and Jack Daniel's, which never had rye whiskeys in their lines before, now do. None of the famous wheater brands -- Maker's Mark, W. L. Weller, and Old Fitzgerald -- has ever sold a straight rye or a rye-recipe bourbon. And there has never been a brand that sold both a rye-recipe bourbon and a wheated bourbon under the same brand name.

Until now.

This is a weird dilution of the brand identity. That doesn't necessarily make it bad. Certainly no one can say the E. H. Taylor line is going for a consistent flavor. This will surely taste completely unlike any previous E. H. Taylor release. That's probably the main thing consumers need to know. Like they say about investments, past experience does not necessarily predict future results.


sku said...

And there has never been a brand that sold both a rye-recipe bourbon and a wheated bourbon under the same brand name.

Never say never: Willett, Vintage, Parker's Heritage Collection, Jefferson's Presidential.

Unknown said...

Nice write up, Chuck! There is a lot of excitement surrounding this one, but unfortunately, it's another limited edition release that is going to draw people out of the woodwork, especially the flippers and hoarders. By any chance, do you have any info on how many bottles will be released?

Anonymous said...

"there has never been a brand that sold both a rye-recipe bourbon and a wheated bourbon under the same brand name"
I assume you intended to limit this statement to producing distilleries. Several NDPs have done this with sourced stocks. Willett Family Estate, Michter's (age stated versions), Jefferson's and even the Van Winkles (with the early use of Boone stocks) have all done it.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I know the rye-recipe Pappy 23 was one release and never formally identified as rye-recipe. It isn't on the label. With the others, their whole 'branding' concept is a little different, and the releases were tiny, but yes they did occur.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if it would be bottled as Btec, it would at least retail for more, I would assume it would wholesale for more. If that is true why make the decision to label it as eht and sell it cheaper.

Stein A. said...

Big fan of your blog, Mr. Cowdery! A small comment about Old Fitzgerald and rye. In "Jim Murray`s Complete Book of Whisky" (1997 ed.) page 161 there is a photo of a bottle of Old Fitzgerald Rye BIB 8 years old with the date "Bottled spring 1915" on its neck (and S.C.Herbst as distiller/proprietor), so they seem to have had a rye before prohibition. Can`t see the word "straight" on the front though. Best wishes, Mr. Stein Aabakken

Anonymous said...

"there has never been a brand that sold both a rye-recipe bourbon and a wheated bourbon under the same brand name"

What about 1792 sweet wheat?

Anonymous said...

To Sku and the others: Chuck Cowdery trying to stir up a tempest in a teapot? Well I never!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Chuck! I agree, wholeheartedly, that a majority of today's brand decisions are a bad idea. It's almost as if they are all trying to get something out instead of doing it the right way, less they get caught with the Bourbon Boom ending and they have a few extra barrels in the warehouse that they never used! It's all about maximum profit, and today's Whiskey Trends have proven that someone will pay any amount imaginable if you throw in a fancy story with the promise of a "May be genie" in the bottle! Keep it up with speaking the truth brother. Too many distilleries nowadays are only worried about maximum profits on a lower quality product than what they once produced.