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Cigar Spirits: E.H. Taylor Jr. Rye Whiskey

18 Feb 2014

In terms of new lines of American whiskey in recent years, E.H. Taylor has to be one of the more interesting. Produced by Buffalo Trace (makers of Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Elmer T. Lee, W.L. Weller, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, and a little bourbon called Pappy Van Winkle) the six-whiskey line honors Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr.

EH-Taylor-RyeTaylor is one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry and one-time owner of what is now called Buffalo Trace Distillery. He’s largely known as a proponent of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which ensured quality standards for “bottled-in-bond” bourbon (back then many bourbons were mixed with things like tobacco, turpentine, or other horrible additives to appear more aged than they were). But rest assured the Feds weren’t just worried about the quality of our bourbon. The law also ensured that the federal government could more easily collect taxes.

The E.H. Taylor line consists of four bourbons (Small Batch, Single Barrel, Barrel Proof, and Warehouse C Tornado Surviving), an Old Fashioned Sour Mash (which technically might be bourbon), and this E.H. Taylor Rye. With the exception of the Barrel Proof, all are bottled at 100-proof, the minimum for a bottled-in-bond American whiskey.

What sets this rye apart is a different mashbill than previous Buffalo Trace ryes (both the Sazerac/Handy recipe, and anything made at the Buffalo Trace-owned Barton Distillery). Neither uses nearly as much rye as the the E.H. Taylor mashbill, which uses no corn (only rye and malted barley), probably in a 95/5 ratio. The age of the rye isn’t disclosed, though the straight rye designation (without any age statement) means it’s at least four years old.

The result is a lively spirit with an intense nose of honey, nutmeg, and varnish. On the palate it really shows its range. Traditional flavors include vanilla, pepper, and oils with subtle, though more dramatic, hints of mint, dried fruit, tamarind, and cinnamon. The finish is long with fruit and woody spice.

I paid $68 for this rye. And while it’s a good rye, it can’t compete with Sazerac ($30) or Rittenhouse 100 ($25) for value, nor is it as good as Sazerac 18, which has a suggested retail of around $80 (though good luck finding it, let alone at that price). And yet, E.H. Taylor is still an impressive rye, one that I not only bought one bottle of, but another right after.

Spicy, full-flavored rye calls for a full-bodied spicy cigar. The Opus X, La Aroma de Cuba Edición Especial, and the Boutique Brands Swag all fit the bill. Ultimately, it’s what I call a stage-two whiskey: not one of the first five ryes I’d recommend to someone just feeling their way through the world of American whiskey, but not something I’d deter a more seasoned rye drinker from trying.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

4 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: E.H. Taylor Jr. Rye Whiskey”

  1. Jim Walters Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    Oh yeah. When I read what Mr. Peters had to say about this about a year and a half ago, I immediately went out and got myself one. It's still on the shelf, about half full.

  2. Timothy Black Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I don't believe the BTAC Saz 18 is the same mash bill as the current Saz or Handy. From a different distiller, that was bought by BT in fact. Old juice. I'll have to check with Wade to confirm. Great article though.

    • Patrick Semmens Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      Tim- Good catch. At least at last report, the Saz 18 that's currently being bottled was distilled at the Old Bernheim Distillery. Their recipe is referred to as "Cream of Kentucky rye" and is different from the Bufallo Trace mashbill.

      That said, I'm sure at some point they will switch over to BT juice, like they've done with Pappy as they've run out of Stitzel-Weller wheated bourbon.

      • Patrick Semmens Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

        More info here:

        They've been keeping what supply of Old Bernheim rye that's left in stainless steel tanks. When that eventually runs out, we'll see what they do with the Sazerac 18 brand then (and if they have other 18 year old rye that tastes as good).