Bourbon fans have a new bottle to look out for this month: Buffalo Trace is releasing a commemorative 100-proof version of Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of the namesake, Elmer T. Lee.
Elmer T. Lee was an important trendsetter in the bourbon world during the last century. After serving in World War II, Lee worked at the George T. Stagg Distillery (now known as Buffalo Trace) from 1949 to 1985. His most well-known creation: Blanton’s Bourbon, which was the first official single barrel bourbon ever created. He retired as Master Distiller, but Lee continued afterwards as an ambassador for the brand, until his death in 2013 at age 93.
Blanton’s was released at a near–all time low for the bourbon market. “Elmer took a big risk creating a single barrel bourbon,” Buffalo Trace’s current master distiller Harlen Wheatley said in a release today, “but he hoped it would generate new interest in bourbon and revive the industry. At first Blanton’s wasn’t popular, and Elmer feared it may not take off. But today, I think it’s safe to say Elmer made a wise move.”
Oh, to be able to go back in time and stock up when people didn’t know what they were missing out on… but back to the bottle at hand. Lee’s namesake bourbon is an equally coveted, if lesser-known sibling to Blanton’s, with a slightly more oak-forward profile. It was released after his retirement, and until his death he was largely in charge of selecting the barrels that would be used.
The Elmer T. Lee 100th bottle is the same whiskey, simply bottled at a higher proof. Buffalo Trace wouldn’t release information on the total number of bottles created, but it’s likely to be fairly small. The normal Elmer T. Lee namesake bourbon, which is already hard to find, is bottled at 90-proof, and Buffalo Trace says the new release will share the same profile: creamy on the front end, bold and wood-forward on the finish.
For $100, it’s an obvious buy for collectors and drinkers alike, if you can track one down. We haven’t tasted it yet, but releases like this tend to become coveted in the secondary markets quickly.