Peruse the shelves of your local liquor store these days, and you might notice a significant portion of the premium shelving (look up) is chock-full of whiskey. The revivification of the craft cocktail owes its start in the United States to the legendary Rainbow Room at New York’s Rockefeller Center, all the way back in 1988. Back then, Dale DeGroff created an extensive cocktail list filled with the classics from the prohibition era. American bourbons featured prominently on that list, and savvy travelers from around the world got a glimpse into the American past.
Blanton proclaims that their whiskey is the “original single barrel bourbon whiskey,” a claim that we cannot certify, nor can we disprove. However, we can say that Stagg is their distiller, and they have the oldest, continuously-running bourbon distillery in the United States. Let’s take a look and see if age truly is a work of art.
Original and Straight
Blanton’s Original used to serve exclusively to ambassadors, dignitaries, and Colonel Blanton’s family to drink. These days you can pull a bottle from the shelf of many liquor stores that carry premium bourbon. Their claims about the tasting profile denote that the Original hits your nose with a waft of vanilla. Across the palate, they say you’ll sense citrus and oak hints, which is unique to Blanton’s. And of course, it’s 93 proof, so be careful about how many Old Fashioneds you down.
Blanton’s Straight is their cask-strength whiskey that is un-filtered and un-cut. The distiller is shooting for a caramel flavor on the nose, and then across the palate, you’re supposed to pick up oak and vanilla. Given that this is a cask-strength whiskey, the proof can be as low as 80 through the low 100s. As before, proceed with caution!
Gold and Reserve
The Gold and Reserve bottles in Blanton’s lineup are designed specifically for the seasoned bourbon veteran and the category newcomer, respectively. At 103 proof, and with intense flavors of rye and tobacco on the nose, it is clear that the Gold Edition is for those who know their way around a bottle of brown. Though the proof is sky-high, the palate is a smooth oak and honey that many aficionados say mellow out the alcohol by volume.
If Gold seems too steep a hill to climb for you, Reserve might just do the trick. Blanton’s 80-proof Special Reserve is a perfect introduction to the world of single-barrel bourbons. Many whisky reviewers note that soft floral tones on the nose and vanilla on the palate make this a very approachable bottle that can be appreciated by all.
Price and Availability
Blanton’s can be a bit of a challenge to find, especially if you live in the Western states. Some high-end liquor stores go out of their way to pull down bottles for their customers, but Original Single Barrel and Gold are the only bottles technically allowed in US markets. Some retailers who are a bit more aggressive and passionate about their dedication to Blanton’s sell the remaining bottles (Reserve & Straight) through their online store, and you can have it shipped straight to your door.
Pricing ranges from $60 to well over $100, depending on where you pull this bottle off the shelf, digitally or otherwise. Some of the bottles not intended for sale in the US can fetch a real premium, but that’s what drinking high-end alcohol is all about. So get out there and track a bottle down for yourself, and let us know what you think!