Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Buffalo Trace Bourbon

BuffaloBuffalo Trace Bourbon
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Final Grade: A-
Price: $24 (750ml)

Reviewed by Bob Montgomery

A glance at the shelves of my local liquor store reveals that bourbon has become the Merlot of the whiskey world, charging ahead of its more stately cousins from Scotland and Ireland and showing its back to the generic Canadians on the bottom shelf. There seems to be three times as many bottles of bourbon as any other kind of whiskey, with a bewildering number of brands and ages to choose from.

Elbowing to the front to stand next to Maker’s in the center of the array is Buffalo Trace. It has a deep amber color in the bottle, and upon opening it immediately fills the room with scents of vanilla and molasses. In the glass, the vanilla is even more powerful, with perhaps a whiff of mint as well.

The initial taste impression is of sweet corn and honey, with a little fruit and mint as it develops. Despite its rye content, it didn’t seem to have any of the typical spice notes of a rye whiskey. This is a thick, rich spirit that hangs around for quite a while in the mouth. What starts as a pleasant warmth soon matures into a mild burn, but nothing too fiery. Definitely sippable, although a splash of water would not be amiss. It makes a decent Manhattan, but, for my part, once you’ve had a Manhattan with good rye, the bourbon version just doesn’t compare.

Buffalo Trace is a solid whiskey for the price, mellow enough to sip but complex enough to linger over. Fans of heavier whiskeys, in particular, should pick up a bottle. An excellent value on an American original.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: A
Final Grade: A-

Book Reviews Drink Recipes Whiskey

Book Review: “The American Cocktail” by The Editors of Imbibe Magazine

Some cocktail books are intended for the casual mixologist, some are intended for the advanced user, and some are a mixture of both. Jim Meehan's The PDT Cocktail Book is an excellent example of the last category, as it's accessible to the inexperienced, yet valuable to the pro as well.

The American Cocktail, a new book put together by the editors of Imbibe Magazine, is definitely in the middle category. Although a novice cocktail fan would probably enjoy flipping through it, the recipes are really intended for those seeking a higher level of mixology.

When putting together this book, the editors did something very smart: they polled 50 of the best bartenders around the country, those men and women who are really dedicated to the craft of high-end cocktails, and asked them to submit a recipe.

The results are fascinating and unique, with a strong emphasis on bold flavors, local ingredients, and drinks that truly capture the essence of the bar/restaurant where they are served. This is cutting-edge mixology that is still, for the most part, accessible.

True, many of the recipes aren't going to be things that you can easily whip up at home. Several of them call for bespoke ingredients, complicated preparations, or obscure spirits, but by no means all of them. Here's an easy recipe that I tried, which made a delicious drink.


Dixie Cup

by Timothy Victor Faulkner, Sauced (Atlanta)


2 oz Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Red Rock Ginger Ale (or other Spicy Ginger Ale)
1/2 oz Sugarcane Syrup

Combine the bourbon, ginger ale, and syrup in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir gently. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Rub a lime twist around the rim of the glass before dropping it into the cocktail. 


As you can see in the photo, I used Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and Reed's Extra Ginger Brew. My, my, this is one tasty drink.

Several of the bartenders I admire have drinks featured here, including Todd Thrasher from PX (Alexandria, VA), Jim Meehan from PDT (New York), Robert Heugel from Anvil (Houston), and Jeffrey Morgenthaler from Clyde Common (Portland). Having recipes from such experts makes this collection all the more valuable.

Readers looking for an introduction to cocktails or a list of simple recipes won't find much joy in The American Cocktail. But more experienced mixologists — or those who want to up their game a little — should definitely give this a look.

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Redemption Rye Whiskey

RedemptionryeRedemption Rye
Straight American Rye Whiskey
Final Grade: B+
Price: $27 (750ml)

Reviewed by Bob Montgomery 

No category of spirit has benefitted more from the cocktail revolution than rye. This whiskey, which formed the backbone of pre-Prohibition drinking, had become nearly extinct by the 1980s. Today rye is to be found in every bar worthy of the name, and no fewer than 40 different ryes are now being distilled in the US. It is almost indispensible in the Manhattan, my favorite cocktail.

Redemption Rye is a recent entrant in this growing market. Sporting a distinctive bottle and a generous 92 proof, Redemption is made from 95% premium rye and aged at least two years in new charred oak barrels. It's distilled in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, where Redemption also produces a High-Rye Bourbon.

Two years is on the young end for any whiskey, although rye tends to be bottled younger than Scotch, for example. Some of that brash character is evident in Redemption, but there are also some signs of a developing maturity as well. It would be very interesting to see what would happen with a few more years in the barrel.

What we have today is still quite smooth, a bit sweet on the palate with some spice notes (think Christmas spices like ginger or clove.) As a sipping whiskey, it is a little hot at 92 proof and benefits from a splash of water or a few cubes of ice. I think its true potential is best realized as a mixing whiskey — it makes a fine Manhattan. At around $27 a bottle, it’s a very good value and well worth adding to your whiskey arsenal.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: B+
Final Grade: B+

Bob Montgomery is the older, occasionally wiser brother of the Professor. He's a gifted cook and an old hand when it comes to whiskeys.