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Cigar Spirits: Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel Bourbon

16 Jun 2015

Sunday was National Bourbon Day, not to be confused with National Bourbon Heritage Month, which is September. So I naturally poured myself some. What was a little unusual was that although bourbon is a most American product (it must be produced in the U.S., though not necessarily in Kentucky), the bourbon I enjoyed isn’t sold in the United States.

blantons-sftbBlanton’s is a well-known single barrel bourbon made at the Buffalo Trace distillery. It’s a popular premium bourbon that sells for around $50, is bottled at 93-proof, and comes in a distinctive round bottle with an iconic metal horse perched on the cork top. While Buffalo Trace distills the bourbon, the Blanton’s brand is owned by Age International, a Japanese company.

Outside the United States Blanton’s also sells a Special Reserve version (80-proof), Blanton’s Gold (103-proof), and Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel (SFTB), which is bottled at barrel-proof. Reportedly, “contractual obligations” prevent Age International from selling these other variations within the United States.

Fortunately for me, I picked up a few bottles (700 ml. each, as opposed to the U.S. standard of 750 ml.) in France last year where SFTB sells for 69 euros, or just under $80. Each label gives you information on the particular bottle. For this one, I can see that it was bottled on 7/7/14 from barrel number 225, which is located in Warehouse H on rack number 31. (Mine is bottle 138.)

This barrel comes in a hearty 127.3-proof (though the proof can vary quite a bit from barrel to barrel, generally ranging from 125 to 135). It’s a very dark copper color with a nose that has features strong oak, clove spice, and hints of caramel and wood polish.

On the palate, SFTB features oak, cinnamon, clove, and caramelized sugar. Just a bit of water opens the flavors up nicely revealing fudge, banana bread, and toffee. The finish lingers with sweet wood notes and a dryness on the roof of the mouth.

As for a cigar, it certainly can hold up to a full-bodied, spicy smoke. Flavorful Nicaraguan-forward blends like Aquitaine or Tatuaje Fausto seem ideal; so does the spicy La Flor Dominicana Cameroon Cabinet and Fuente Opus X.

While you can find a few places online that will ship this elusive version of Blanton’s into the U.S. for a hefty premium, a better plan is to wait until you, or a bourbon-drinking friend, are heading to Europe or Japan and then do a little research to locate it so you can pack a bottle or two back with you in your checked luggage. It is an excellent bourbon and if you’re a fan of Blanton’s (or Elmer T. Lee or Rock Hill Farms, which are other single-barrel bourbons that use the same mashbill as Blanton’s) it is well worth the effort needed to acquire a bottle of this tasty, flavorful whiskey.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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