Elmer T. Lee

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel

90 Proof Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Elmer T. Lee….the guy is a legend.  An American war hero turned Engineer, he started his career working at the George T. Stagg distillery which later became Buffalo Trace, eventually rising to the level of Master Distiller.  He is credited as the “father of the single barrel,” the man who decided perhaps the public would be interested in premium, limited release bourbons when he spearheaded the release of Blanton’s (named after the owner of George T. Stagg Distillery who originally didn’t want to give him a job) in 1984.  Obviously, he was right.  Mr. Lee died at the age of 93 in July of 2013.  I hope we are all lucky enough to drink fine bourbon to that age.

This is a single barrel release, though the barrel number is not indicated, but there’s only about 1000 people in the world who would really care about what floor of what warehouse their bottle came from, so there.  Ok, ok, I’m one of those people–but sometimes it’s nice to just drink your damn drink and not worry about it!  Also, I know it’s not important to a lot of people, but I’m a packaging guy, and I love the bottle of this release.  The short, square shape is unique, plus the portrait of the man himself on the inside of the back glass is so friggin classy I can barely stand it.  The bottle feels really nice in your hand and looks great on your bar.

You hear people talk a lot about a “balanced” bourbon, and it’s gotten to the point where people just say that about any whiskey they like.  I know some whiskeys that I don’t think are balanced at all, but that taste so great it doesn’t matter–balance isn’t always the most important thing I guess I should say.  However, this bourbon is the ultimate “balanced” whiskey.  Everything is working together to give you a drink that you can just sip all day.  On the nose you’ve got a nice mix of cinnamon, maple, caramel with a hint of orange.  I’ve heard other people describe intense citrus in the nose, but the bottle I’ve got is very light on the citrus.  There is another component which for lack of a better word I’ll just call “flowers.”  It just all works so nicely together, just like it’s supposed to.  Taking a sip you get a lot of the same plus vanilla and a lingering light spiciness.  Nothing mind blowing, nothing out of the ordinary, it’s just damn good bourbon.

I have to admit the first time I drank this I was disappointed.  I think I expected something…crazier.  I mean like cray-zay.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that this is a bourbon selected by a guy (Elmer T. Lee himself, at least until his death, supposedly hand picked…or should I say tongue picked?gross? every single barrel they bottled from) who just liked to drink good bourbon.  It’s almost TOO easy drinking, but that’s the way he probably wanted it.  I recommend this as a starter bourbon for someone who has never had bourbon without a mixer.  Next time your friend wants Jack and Coke, tell ’em to shut up and drink this.

Rating 8.4 / 10

Bought at J’s Bottle Shop in Athens, GA for $29.99

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3 thoughts on “Elmer T. Lee

  1. Great review!
    This was the bourbon that cemented my love for drinking it straight. Very smooth, with some spice to keep it interesting. Still in my top 3 favourite bourbons.

    Also love the line “tongue picked?gross?”. Haha!

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