Steve Crotty reviews Blanton’s Special Reserve
Blanton’s Special Reserve
Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Approximate price £27 – 35
Many of the big bourbon-producing distilleries like to diversify and release several different bourbons under a name different to that of the distillery, a bit like Kit-Kat being made by Mars. Buffalo Trace, those fine purveyors of one of the pinnacles of entry-level bourbon, are also responsible for the Blanton’s name.
First of all let me give a quick written salute to whoever is head of packaging and design for the Blanton’s name. The bottle is octagonal and has the look of a top quality decanter rather than a bottle (indeed, this is the purpose my finished bottle is now serving). Adorned with a wraparound giving you various delightful nuggets of information on the whiskey, it is also festooned with a horse in race mode. Whatever your views on the sport of kings, Blanton’s are clearly appreciative of it. When put together their full collection of whiskies is designed to show a horse through all the stages of a race.
Blanton’s themselves regard Special Reserve as the introductory whiskey within their range, something that is evident both on price (significantly cheaper than any of their other produce) and ABV (at 40% it is also has the lowest ABV within their range). A visit to their website oddly states that this is best served “On ice, or used in a premium cocktail”. It this the first example ever of a company downplaying the quality of their whiskey? The subtext of the quote suggests the Special Reserve is not good enough to be drunk on its own. Investigation is required.
The nose is mild and gentle. This is not a derogatory comment by any stretch, as it soothes the palate with delicate vanilla pods followed by an essence of burnt sultanas. It opens up further if you hold the glass for five minutes and allow the whiskey to reach body temperature, the burnt sultana being highlighted now rather than just alluded to.
A gentle nose leads to a gentle mouth-feel. The vanilla is the key theme again here, enveloping you in its decadence. Strangely the sultanas are gone but the whiskey develops a strangely fragrant middle reminding me of old school floral gums rather than the malt I was expecting. Just as you think the kick is never going to come, a slight peppery spice lingers. Again, this is done with subtlety, rather than the full punch you would expect – this whiskey gives you a slight graze that you wouldn’t even put a plaster on.
This is certainly an intriguing whiskey. The quality is apparent in the crispness of the various flavours present and there is a genuine appeal to the effervescent clarity of the whiskey. The rest is entirely subjective and so is difficult to mark. I believe it could do with upping to a 46% ABV so that the spiciness on the end was more prevalent rather than a dainty flourish. Indeed the whole whiskey could be described as dainty. Being quite au fait with the Blanton’s name and produce, thanks to a friend of mine who swears by them, this one came as a bit out of leftfield, as I am aware of Blanton’s ability to produce big powerful bruisers. Therefore I applaud them for making what was surely a brave call by introducing this, and can even see their argument that it is best served over ice, as this makes it smooth to the point of absurdity. Have a girlfriend who thinks all whiskies are too strong? Give her a drink of this. Have a friend who thinks all whiskey takes disgusting? Slap him/her first, and then give them a drink of this. Don’t be expecting to be bowled over by this most delicate of bourbons; just appreciate it for what it is.
Overall Rating 8/10