Elmer T Lee
It’s not very often that I’ve seen a bottle of Elmer T Lee bourbon sitting around on liquor store shelves. However, the last time my buddy Brian was in town he found a bottle and was telling me about it because he loved it so much. I’m easily influenced by my friends, because I believe their tastes are fairly well-aligned with mine. He’s also the guy that told me abou the Casa Magna Colorado cigar. He went ahead and bought a bottle of Elmer T Lee for my bachelor trip weekend. Now, don’t worry we didn’t do any shots of it, we simply used it as a sipping primer between stops on the bourbon trail.
So I was doing some digging around online, and in my fancy new book 1001 whiskies you should try before you die, doing research about this particular bourbon. The man Elmer T Lee is quite the legend in the bourbon community. An interesting fact, he still hand picks the exact barrels that he wants to use for bottling of this single barrel bourbon that bears his name. The Buffalo Trace website has an awesome backstory about Mr. T Lee if you’re interested. He showed up to try and get a job at the George T. Stagg distillery and was told by Colonel Blanton (yes this Blanton) to go home that they weren’t hiring any more help. Well, it turns out Elmer decided to come back the next week and just show up ready to work. It’s a good thing he did, because he went on to become the first person named Master Distiller at the distillery. In fact he was the first person to introduce us to the first commercially available bottle of single barrel bourbon. He honored the man who let him stay and work (Colonel Blanton) by releasing Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon to the world. Not too long after that he was honored as well with his own single barrel bourbon, and that’s what we’re here to talk about so lets get into the review of Elmer T Lee’s bourbon!
The bottle this Elmer T Lee bourbon sits in is fairly simple, it’s a solid and blunt looking bottle. Somewhat squatty, it’s short solid stature assures me I won’t have any issues with it balancing if an earthquake ever hit Middle Tennessee. The first thing that I noticed about the bottle is the gold wax at the top of the bottleneck protecting the cap and acting as a quality assurance seal to make sure no one has tampered with your bourbon. It’s very similar to what Maker’s Mark does with their red wax at the top of their bottles.
My favorite thing about this bottle however is the picture of Elmer T Lee on the back of the bottle. He peers through his bourbon to look at you in the eyes almost as if he’s waiting to see your expression as your pour and enjoy a few ounces of his select bourbon. I know it sounds a little creepy, but I kind of like it. I also love the attire that he wears, he’s got an awesome newsboy hat that he wears that takes me back to an older place in time. I know I could never pull off a hat like, but I always love seeing people wear them I think they look classy. So if you can pull one of those off, pour yourself a glass of Mr. Lee’s bourbon and reminisce about a time gone by…
The rest of the bottle is completely clear, there are no paper labels on it. Just some fancy pants gold writing, the Elmer T Lee is written in cursive with a nice gold stroke to it. I’m a big fan of not having paper labels on the bottle it lets you see more of the bourbon color and plus it allows you to see when you’re running low. Because all know, it’s a bad day when we’re running low on bourbon around here.
Speaking of how the bourbon looks, I think the most clear description of the color would be a nice rich copper color. In fact the color is so rich and full when I swirl it in my class, it doesn’t thin out much it stays very full and difficult to see through. Must be a good sign of the aging process wouldn’t you say?
While on the bourbon trail I got a fancy new sipping glass, it’s tapered at the top to the really concentrate the aromas before you take a sip. The first thing that I noticed on this Elmer T Lee bourbon is the spice with a hint of sweetness. The rye really pops out of this bourbon and makes it stand on edge. I picked up a lot of that traditional vanilla with some other spice as well. As I let it sit in my glass I continued to swirl it around and noticed that the spice began to give way to more sweet aromas. Opening up the bourbon a bit, I was able to pick up on some leather notes alongside hints of butterscotch.
Now this is where Elmer T Lee really began to shine for me. Similar to the nose, there was a strong spice upfront which is indicative of more rye in this recipe. However, there was a good dose of sweetness on the backend. Now typically I pick up sweet on the front end and the spice on the back end kind of lingering around. It was interesting how this worked in reverse of that. The sweetness practically washed away the spice and gave me a nice finish on the tongue. You get that nice sweet bourbon caramel flavor, on the backend that typically comes from a good ratio of corn and proper aging. Overall I was very impressed with the palate on this bourbon. Now onto the finish to bring it home.
For me this is what really sets bourbons apart from one another. It’s the thing that leaves a lasting impression in your mind and it’s what draws you back each time to take another sip. This Elmer T Lee bourbon does just that. It has a nice long coating finish on the tongue. The spice lingers and tingles the tongue and then is smoothed out by the sweetness that I described above.
I’ve read others reviews that describe this finish as being ‘light’, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with that. I would say that it’s light in terms of the burn and heat that builds up in your throat and chest, but this bourbon has more of a smooth finish. One that doesn’t set you on fire from the inside. To me, it’s a good change of pace. There is a decent amount of heat that comes off this Elmer T Lee, but nothing like Booker’s or Basil Hayden.
One of the great things about this bourbon is that it’s simple enough for new connoisseurs, especially at the price point, yet it’s complex enough for the veteran bourbon enthusiast. I’m glad my buddy Brian forced me to try this because I’m not sure I would have picked it up for quite a while. At this price point of around $25-30 it’s hard to beat. Don’t forget this is a single barrel, it’s hard to find other single barrels at this low of a price. So do yourself a favor and go pick up a bottle of this Elmer T Lee bourbon, and give it a pour.