Buffalo Trace Distillery | Review | Singel Barrels

Every Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Reviewed [2021]

May 31, 2021

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

Elmer T. Lee was a legendary master distiller for Buffalo Trace. But he didn’t start as a legend. He was hired by Colonel Blanton in 1949 as a maintenance engineer after serving in World War II as a Radar Bombardier. He worked his way through the ranks until he was promoted to Master Distillery in the early 80s but soon retired in 1985. Lee was a key figure in resurrecting bourbon from the ashes of the 60s and 70s. One of his contributions was creating Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon in 1984.

Even after retirement, Elmer T. Lee served as Master Distiller emeritus. His namesake bourbon was created in 1986, and Lee hand-selected the barrels used for his namesake single barrel bourbon into his 90s. He passed in 2013 at the good, old age of 93-years-old. You will see below but Buffalo Trace has honored Elmer T. Lee with several limited releases bourbons under the ETL brand.

Below Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley does a tasting of Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon as well as discusses this bourbon legend’s life and legacy.

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Every Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Reviewed

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon
ETL Single Barrel BourbonFacts
MashbillKY Corn, MN Rye, ND Malted Barley
Buffalo Trace's #2 High-Rye Mashbill (Estimated 12 to 15% Rye)
Off the Still140 Proof
In the Barrel125 Proof
In the Bottle90 Proof
ABV45%
BarrelNew, White Oak
#4 Alligator Char (55 Seconds)
Barrel MakerIndependent Stave Co
712 East Main
Lebanon, KY 40033
Release TypeSingle Barrel
AgeNAS
MSRP$40
DistilleryBuffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Frankfort, KY 40601
ProsLove the Leather Notes
ConsMore Punchy Finish
RatingSilver 92 out of 100 Points
AvailabilityAllocated
InventoryBuy It When You Can

Nose – 92 out of 100 Points

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon offers classic bourbon aromas of caramel, vanilla, and oak with the addition of wonderful leather notes. I’m a huge fan of leather notes with sweeter caramel and vanilla. It’s a combination I find quite a bit in older bourbons. If I could ETL at retail, it’s a bourbon I would drinking more of.

Taste – 92 out of 100 Points

The palate is perfectly balanced with sweeter caramel and vanilla and more savory charred oak, cinnamon, and musty leather. It’s a flavor profile I enjoy immensely.

Finish – 91 out of 100 Points

The finish is medium in length and more savory than the nose and palate. The sweet notes are more supporting actors and the leather, oak and baking spice take a step forward.

Complexity – 92 out of 100 Points

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon offers solid complexity with layers of flavor that just work together without question.

Value – 93 out of 100 Points

I’m sticking with Buffalo Trace’s suggested retail of $40. At that price, Elmer T. Lee is a no-brainer. ETL’s value is tricky though. Is it worth the $150 to $200 I see at stores and online? Probably not.

Verdict – Silver 92 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

Elmer T. Lee 90 Proof Japanese Export (1993) Review

Elmer T. Lee 90 Proof Japanese Export (1993)

Nose – 99 out of 100 Points

Caramel and leather. Deep barrel char. Sometimes simplicity is just damn good. These are simple flavors with Mariana Trench depth.

Taste – 98 out of 100 Points

The caramel and leather come back to play on the palate with some added balance with baking spice. George Clinton and the Dusty Funk All-Stars show up to add that intangible goodness that dustyphiles love.

Finish – 97 out of 100 Points

The baking spice is the star of this medium finish with just a bit of white pepper and some brown sugar sweetness.

Verdict – Platinum 98 out of 100 Points

This 1993 dusty Elmer T. Lee has the same profile as the standard offering but the depth, complexity, and dusty funk rockets this Japanese Export into a completely different orbit.

Elmer T. Lee 100 Year Tribute Review

Elmer T. Lee 90th Birthday Edition Review

Elmer T Lee Commemorative Edition is basically the same as the standard bottle, but bumped up an extra 1.5% alcohol to make it 93-proof in honor of Lee. Buffalo Trace did a similar special release to commemorate Lee’s 90th birthday, although that didn’t result in a proof change.

Read more.

Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Bourbon (“Death Bottle”)

About Matty Sims

Written by Matty Sims

Matty Sims is a storyteller who loves bourbon. He has been drinking and studying whiskey for over 10 years. He has also been featured on sites like Bourbon Sippers, Explore Whiskey, Thrive Global and Inside Hook, partnered with dozens of distilleries, and reviewed hundreds of whiskeys. He has also created single barrel stickers for Bourbon Pursuit and Total Wine.
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