E. H. Taylor Seasoned Wood – Limited Release
Buffalo Trace Distillery – 100 Proof/50% ABV

seasoned wood.pngPerhaps it is best, in the spirit of full disclosure, to open this review with the confession that I am openly enthusiastic about the EH Taylor line from Buffalo Trace.  My bio for this website reveals that I am “currently pouring” the Small Batch expression, which I feel strongly enough about that I recommended it as a gift this holiday season in our Christmas Spirits wishlist.  In that same piece, I mentioned that if you had been especially good, you might receive a bottle of the Single Barrel; apparently I was, because I did.  As an unabashed fan of both the whiskey and its roguish namesake, it’s fair to say that I was pretty excited to receive a sample of the EH Taylor Seasoned Wood Limited Release.

What’s special about the Seasoned Wood?  First, it’s a wheated bourbon, a grain that distillers say ages more gracefully than rye, meaning the flavor profile of the whiskey comes more from the mash than from the barrel.  But the reason we’re talking Seasoned Wood here and not Seasoned Wheat is because this expression pairs the strong flavor of the mash with an equally strong-flavored barrel.  Some of the staves have been uniquely soaked in a proprietary enzyme bath, while others were left to season outside for anywhere from 6 months to a year.

Aye, here’s the rub.  If you know me well enough to know my appreciation of EH Taylor bourbon, than you probably also know that I appreciate simplicity and tradition just as much.  I’m as skeptical of treatments that sound like they belong at a purification spa being applied to distilling as I am of commercializing something that sounds like a happy accident.  What the hell is an enzyme bath?  Is “seasoned” just a marketing term for “left outside too long?”  But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of products with other unusual marketing narratives (Did someone say Orphan Barrel?) so I was still very curious what I’d find in this bottle.

My curiosity was met with a uniqueness typical of the EH Taylor line.  One of the things I like about it is that, like its namesake, this line is willing to take chances to create results that are unmistakable (the Cured Oak version was a smashing success).  This is without a doubt true of the Seasoned Wood.  On opening the bottle, the nose is immediately one of heavy winter seasoning: cloves, mulling spices, gingerbread, fir.  Add the heat of your first sip, which warms you down into your stomach and from the inside out, and I imagine that if a Saint Bernard were to find me snowbound in the Alps, this would be the ideal liquid to have in the barrel around its neck.  But when the dryness kicks in on the finish, leaving me with near cottonmouth, I think that dehydration is probably not the feeling a stranded skier wants.  Unfortunately, the dry heat overpowers what few flavors whisper behind those closed doors of tannic copper.

Value: Medium at best.  With a  $70 MSRP and expected higher prices due to the one time limited release, this has too much competition from lower price ranges to comb the liquor store desert—or snow-capped mountains—for a bottle.

Drinkability: Medium.  While I applaud other EH Taylor iterations for the complicated challenge they represent, making this someone’s first bourbon would be like tossing a JV wrestler into an MMA cage match.

Overall Rating: 82.  The introductory EH Taylor Small Batch remains one of my favorite brands, and the Seasoned Wood simply doesn’t stack up to its little brother.

Special thanks to Kristi Wooldridge at Buffalo Trace for setting us up with a review sample.

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