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.
- Every Blanton’s Bourbon Reviewed
- Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Reviewed
- Eagle Rare Reviewed
- E.H. Taylor Small Batch Reviewed
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Every Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Reviewed
|ETL Single Barrel Bourbon||Facts|
|Mashbill||KY Corn, MN Rye, ND Malted Barley|
Buffalo Trace's #2 High-Rye Mashbill (Estimated 12 to 15% Rye)
|Off the Still||140 Proof|
|In the Barrel||125 Proof|
|In the Bottle||90 Proof|
|Barrel||New, White Oak|
#4 Alligator Char (55 Seconds)
|Barrel Maker||Independent Stave Co|
712 East Main
Lebanon, KY 40033
|Release Type||Single Barrel|
|Distillery||Buffalo Trace Distillery|
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Frankfort, KY 40601
|Pros||Love the Leather Notes|
|Cons||More Punchy Finish|
|Rating||Silver 92 out of 100 Points|
|Inventory||Buy 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
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.
Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Bourbon (“Death Bottle”)
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Written by Matty Sims
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