More On Buffalo Trace: Inexpensive Bourbons

Buried in this recent piece about visiting Buffalo Trace is the surprising fact that the 17 brands bottled there come from just 4 mash bills. (Mash bills are effectively grain recipes - how much corn, wheat, rye, etc. for what goes into the mash, or soupy beer that is ultimately distilled into whiskey.) As previously mentioned, it's a little mind-blowing to think that the stuff that goes into the barrel for Ancient Age is the same as for Blanton's, same for Benchmark and Eagle Rare, and for Weller and Pappy. The only differences are the length of time in barrel and where in the rick house the barrel does its time. (Yes, rick houses do look a lot like prisons. And Buffalo Trace does not move barrels, as many other distillers do.)

Anyway, a minor experiment ensued. Procuring Ancient Age turned out to be (much, much) easier than Blanton's, both economically and logistically. Same for Benchmark. Each of these everyman bourbons can be had for $13 and without having to whisper the right words into special, connected ears. They're just sitting there on the bottom shelf of the liquor store, lonely, waiting for someone to notice.

Sure, just because something is inexpensive doesn't mean it's worth it. Heck, many a foolish hangover has been suffered at the alter of a booze bargain. So, the question the experiment attempted to answer was, are these lesser Buffalo Trace bottles worth drinking? 

Unequivocally yes. 

And before any elite purists get their panties in a bunch over that statement, a reminder that the question was whether they're worth drinking, not whether they're the same thing. Which they are not. But siblings is actually a useful analogy to use in describing the relationship between each of these bourbons and their corresponding more famous, well, siblings (Blanton's/Eagle Rare.)

We all know families whose kids are very different, yet somehow alike. One child might be ridiculously attractive, while another is more homely. One might be sharp and another dull. The contrasts go on and on, but once you scratch at the surface a bit, it doesn't take long for the similarities to become increasingly evident - and the differences more muted. 

The likeness of Ancient Age to Blanton's is not a merely passing resemblance - it's real. Same for Benchmark and Eagle Rare. No, the contours aren't as precise and the depths aren't as profound, but damn if they aren't members of the same generation. The only difference is that one is waiting to be noticed while the other is trying its best to remain out of reach.