Blanton's Single-Barrel Bourbon: The Ultimate Bottle Guide - Tasting Table (2024)


ByBrian Rooney/

Most every bourbon distillery today has at least one single-barrel expression in its lineup, but what is now a common, almost mandatory inclusion has only been that way over the past few decades. Blanton's Single-Barrel bourbon is to thank for that. This bourbon brand, while relatively young, quickly became an icon in its industry, revolutionizing what bourbon whiskey could be. Blanton's Single-Barrel is the first of its kind, and, while there are now many other single-barrels on the market, it is widely considered to be the only one of its kind as well.

Single-barrel bourbons are one of the three different forms in which bourbon can come in, according to New Riff Distilling. There is the standard barrel, the most common, and small-batch, both of which are made with a blend of whiskies from different barrels. Single-barrel bourbons, however, are considered the most elite of the three because they consist only of the whiskey from one individual barrel. After the desired aging, the whiskey is removed, diluted, and bottled, which is what makes each one truly unique.

In this exclusive category of bourbon, Blanton's Single-Barrel is undoubtedly in the top tier. Although it is an excellent-tasting, widely praised, award-winning bourbon, a bottle of it is not very easy to find. If you are able to get your hands on one, however, there are other things to behold apart from what's inside. Here is everything you need to know about the phenomenal, revolutionary, and mythical Blanton's Single-Barrel Bourbon.

History of Blanton's

The origins of bourbon date back to the 18th century, when settlers in the original American west utilized the abundance of corn to practice the distilling methods of their homelands. Blanton's Single Barrel, however, only came about in 1984, when Elmer T. Lee, a bourbon-making veteran, was tasked with creating a distinctly superior bourbon before he retired.

In order to do so, Lee reflected on his career as a distiller, and recalled the early stages of his career working under Colonel Albert B. Blanton, and how Blanton would bottle bourbon directly from barrels in the center of the distillery's Warehouse H whenever a special occasion would arise or an esteemed guest would pay a visit. So, for his new premium bourbon, Lee decided to do the same thing, notes the brand's site.

The reason why the center of this mythical Warehouse H was particularly remarkable for aging bourbon is that it was built with metal. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Blanton has to restart production and do so in the highest gear possible. With little room to store the amount of bourbon he was distilling, he commissioned the construction of a metal warehouse, because it take less time to erect. It turns out, the thinner metal walls take better advantage of Kentucky's natural climate, so the distillate is able to interact more swiftly with the oak. Thus, the first commercially bottled single-barrel bourbon was born, rightfully named after the distiller who inspired it.

The corks are collectibles

If you have ever seen a bottle of Blanton's Single-Barrel, you probably took notice of its stylish stopper. The small metal horse and jockey atop every bottle of Blanton's doesn't just help them stand out on shelves, though. Each stopper is actually a collectible part of a set, so if you already found a reason to find and purchase a bottle of Blanton's, now you have a reason to purchase eight.

While the horse and jockey had been employed since the brand was first established, it was not until the late 1990s that its owners, Buffalo Trace Distillery and Sazerac Company, launched the actual campaign, (via Vinepair). Blanton's produces an equal number of eight different stoppers, each of which with the horse and jockey in a different position and with a different letter circled each on its lower left side that, when put together, spells out "BLANTON'S." There is speculation that certain letters are rarer than others, but this is not the case. Plus, there are two different stoppers with the letter "n" circled, so, unfortunately, no shortcuts can be made.

The idea for the horse and jockey is simply referring to the horse racing history and culture in the Bluegrass State, which hosts The Kentucky Derby annually, one of the most famous horse racing events in the world. This homage is brought to clever fruition with the final letter "s," which shows the jockey raising his fist in celebration as he crosses the finish line.

Blanton's in Japan

Bourbon will always hold the title of America's spirit, belonging wholeheartedly to the state of Kentucky, but Blanton's Single-Barrel is actually even more popular in Japan than anywhere else. Despite the immense success it is experiencing today, the initial release of Blanton's in 1984 completely flopped in the United States. However, it thrived in Japan.

At the time, the bourbon industry in America was floundering. According to Vinepair, the 1970s saw a steep decline in the quality of bourbon production. Lots of bourbons were being made very cheaply, which did not encourage participation from younger drinkers. Meanwhile, the younger Japanese generation was just the opposite, searching for a spirit to call their own to break away from the Scotch and domestic whiskeys their parents drank.

In fact, 51% of bourbon sales were attributed to the Japanese market at that time, which grew by nearly 350% in the 1980s. This is why liquor executives Ferdie Falk and Bob Baranaska came to Elmer T. Lee with the request for a new, special bourbon. Before that, the duo had launched a bourbon in the Japanese market with great success, Blanton's was another opportunity to do it again, and they did.

Since then, Blanton's has released numerous editions of its bourbon exclusively for the Japanese market. These include the Blanton's Single-Barrel Black Label, which now costs, on average, close to $300 a bottle, (via Wine-Searcher), as well as its Cream Label, Takara Red, which sells for an average of $370.

There is a collection of Blanton's worth $100,000

The flagship bottle of Blanton's Single-Barrel is one of the most revered bottles of bourbon around. In fact, according to Gear Patrol, it is among the most searched whiskeys on Google and the No. 1 searched whiskey on Wine-Searcher. Not only is a regular bottle difficult to come across, specialty bottles and limited releases have inspired hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to helping people locate these bottles of Blanton's so they can be added to their collection.

If you're Dominic Gugliemi, you seem to have found Blanton's treasure map. At first, Gugliemi collected bottles of Blanton's the same way most people do, searching for the eight stoppers with every letter circled. As his work often brought him to Japan, he discovered the specialty Japanese releases and was hooked from there. He says one particular trip resulted in bringing back 28 bottles.

As of October 2022, Gugliemi's collection has reached a total of 42 collectible bottles. Of these, he says his 2012 Le Maison Du Whisky is the rarest, which was only bottled from one barrel's worth of bourbon. Others include the Sterling Silver edition, which is believed to be one of only 100 ever in existence, as well as Tazuka 100 Year Anniversary, of which he owns two of the known seven bottles in the collecting community.

All in all, Gugliemi believes his collection, into which he has invested about $50,000 is worth between $75,000 and $100,000.

Beware of Blanton's scammers

As is the case with any collectible with high monetary value, there will always be counterfeits, and Blanton's is no exception. In September of 2021, the Buffalo Trace Distillery sent out a press release addressing several online scams that accepted discounted payment from customers for rare bottles of bourbon and did not send them in return or did so with empties or counterfeits. Blanton's was one of the most involved brands in the widespread scams, along with Double Eagle Rare.

Also in the press release, Buffalo Trace explained how fans of its distillery from across the country reached out to explain their dissatisfaction and victimhood. Buffalo Trace immediately sought legal action against these websites to have them shut down. Unfortunately, there is not much the distillery can do to prevent this type of scam. Apart from taking legal action, it contacted social media companies requesting help, but the scams continue to occur.

According to Mary Tortorice of Sazerac Company, customers can avoid being duped by recognizing some red flags. First off, it is illegal in 44 states for distilleries to ship alcohol directly to people's homes, so any promise of doing so should not always be taken seriously. Plus, many of these websites that took advantage of customers had locations outside of the United States, which is another thing online shoppers should always take notice of. Most of all, as the press release concluded, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

How is it made?

Blanton's Single-Barrel Bourbon: The Ultimate Bottle Guide - Tasting Table (7)

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

It all starts with the mash bill, the combination of grains that are cooked and fermented. Legally, the mash bill of any bourbon contains a minimum of 51% corn. Other grains normally include rye, barley, and sometimes wheat, depending on the distillery or particular bourbon. As for Blanton's, the exact mash bill is unknown but is suggested to be a high rye mash bill, per The Whiskey Shelf.

The mash is combined with limestone water, a unique and abundant resource in Kentucky, and is cooked for about half an hour. Then, the mash is cooled and transferred to a fermenting container where yeast is introduced to begin the fermentation process. Once fermentation is complete, the mash has essentially turned into a strong beer, with about 9% alcohol. This is then strained and distilled in column stills, a process that extracts the alcoholic vapor from the liquid and converts it back into a liquid to form raw whiskey.

This raw whiskey is now ready to enter the charred oak barrels. Charring the inside of the barrel opens up its fibers, so the oak can absorb and release the whiskey more deeply. Blanton's Single-Barrel is aged for about six years, which may not seem like a lot for a whiskey of its caliber, but these six years take place in the heart of Warehouse H, a one-of-a-kind environment for bourbon maturation. Finally, is taken directly from the barrel, diluted to 93 proof, and bottled.

What does Blanton's taste like?

No matter what bourbon you are sipping, its taste mostly relies on its mash bill. Because Blanton's Single-Barrel is made with a high rye mash bill, approximately 12% to 15%, it has more of a spice presence and nuttiness.

This increased percentage of rye also compliments the qualities accumulated from the aging process, punching up those oak and tobacco notes from the charred barrel. The regular flavor notes of caramel and vanilla we all love in bourbon are enhanced as well, with that toasty, peppery spice from the rye doing its part to balance out the sweetness of the corn for a layered, sophisticated depth of character. The rich and smooth flavor of Blanton's Single-Barrel is quite sensational considering it is only aged for about six years. To put that into perspective, the Buffalo Trace Distillery's flagship bourbon is aged between six and eight years, and the difference in profile between the two, which are both excellent whiskies, is vast.

The aging in the fabled Warehouse H really does seem to make an immense difference. In the same amount of time, the heightened temperature inside the metal building truly does allow the bourbon and the oak barrel to interact more intensely, which is reflected in Blanton's aroma and flavor. This environment places this bourbon on a different level from the rest, with a silky smoothness that is usually only attainable with several more years of maturation.

How to drink it

Blanton's Single-Barrel Bourbon: The Ultimate Bottle Guide - Tasting Table (9)


As always, however you choose to enjoy Blanton's, or any spirit, is entirely up to your own preference and taste, though there are certain things you can do to enhance your tasting experience.

The first is glassware. Basically, any glass that allows room for both your nose and mouth is best. These include wine glasses, rocks glasses, or a Glencairn glass, which are specifically designed for sipping whiskey. These glasses have a short, wide, and sturdy stem that supports a tulip-shaped body. The wide, rounded body narrows towards the top, retaining the whiskey's aromas and allowing it to breathe.

As far as what actually goes into your glass, sipping bourbon neat and at room temperature is the purest form of enjoying it. Plus, this will help you appreciate all its intricacies and nuances to their fullest potential, which are bountiful in a bourbon like Blanton's. If sipping whiskey on its own may be too forceful for your liking, adding a dash of water will help remove any burn and allow you to take in more of its subtler characteristics.

Furthermore, because Blanton's Single-Barrel is a premium bourbon that costs considerably more than the average bottle, using it to make a co*cktail probably isn't the best use of the money you spent. Blanton's should be seen more as a tasty investment to be indulged in and savored, not enjoyed in haste. So, using it to make something like an Old Fashioned really thwarts its quality.

Is Blanton's expensive?

While there are plenty of quality bottles in a far more accessible price range, Blanton's can be considered in its own class of bourbon and its price tag reflects that. According to Wine-Searcher, a bottle of Blanton's Single-Barrel costs an average of $158.

While this is obviously a lot of money to spend on a bottle of whiskey, or any spirit really, Blanton's is not meant to be bought and finished quickly. Instead, your bottle deserves to be kept on a high shelf in your home for the eventual special occasion, such as one of life's milestones or a rare visit from friends, family, or other loved ones. That way, when you do pour this bourbon into a glass and share it with your beloved company, the celebration of your togetherness will become that much more special.

The reason for this price tag goes beyond Blanton's undeniable quality, however. In the midst of the current bourbon boom, demand for bottles like Blanton's has exceeded supply, but a whiskey like Blanton's cannot be rushed. Therefore, when barrels of Blanton's are ready to be bottled and distributed, there is only so much to go around. Plus, many bottles are reserved for the reliable Japanese market, and smaller liquor stores are pushed aside in favor of large chains, per Wine Enthusiast. So, if you are lucky enough to come across a bottle of Blanton's on a store shelf, taking advantage probably won't come with any buyer's remorse.

Blanton's Single-Barrel vs. Colonel E.H. Taylor Single-Barrel

Colonel E.H. Taylor is another iconic and revered brand of bourbon under the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Colonel Taylor purchased the distillery that became Buffalo Trace and is considered one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry due to his advocacy for the Bottled-In-Bond act of 1897. He was also the first to implement climate-controlled aging warehouses, one of which holds most of the barrels bottled for this bourbon and was built by Taylor in 1881.

The most popular bourbon of the Colonel E.H. Taylor lineup is the small-batch expression, but the single-barrel is obviously more comparable to Blanton's. However, the two bourbons are made with different mash bills, as Colonel Taylor's is believed to have less rye, at about 10%.

In addition to the softer mouthfeel and more straightforward flavor profile, Colonel E.H. Taylor Single-Barrel is a bottled–in–bond bourbon, meaning, among other things, it has an alcohol content of 50%, slightly higher than Blanton's. Colonel E.H. Taylor's Single-Barrel is aged for about one year longer than Blanton's. However, the extra year does not make up for the environment in which Blanton's is aged in Warehouse H. Per Wine-Searcher, a bottle of Colonel E.H. Taylor Single-Barrel costs an average of $275. While this excellent, rare bottle of bourbon is well-worthy of a place on any collector's shelf, the roughly one year of extra aging is not worth more than $100.

Blanton's Single-Barrel Bourbon: The Ultimate Bottle Guide - Tasting Table (2024)


What is the hardest Blanton's letter to find? ›

What is the rarest letter to find? All the letters are produced in equal amounts. However, because Blanton's is bottled by hand they are placed on the bottle at random.

What happens when you collect all 8 Blanton's tops? ›

If you collect all 8 stoppers, you can actually send them to Buffalo Trace. and they'll mount them on a barrel stave for free. Now if you're like me, you're just happy to find one. so you can drink it.

Is Blanton's straight from the barrel hard to find? ›

The bourbon comes off the still at 140 proof and enters the barrel at 125 proof. This particular bottle being reviewed comes in at an even 130 proof. Straight from the Barrel edition is currently only offered in international markets and in some domestic duty free stores.

Why is Blanton's so hard to find now? ›

One of the biggest reasons for the gap in supply meeting demand is, as Liquor Laboratory points out, it takes years to age. The recent whiskey boom surprised even those in the industry, and Buffalo Trace couldn't respond at the speed, say, a candy bar maker could.

What Blanton's does John Wick drink? ›

Blanton's bourbon, known as John Wick's favorite drink, is a single-barrel bourbon produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. It has a high-rye mash bill #2, which consists of corn, malted barley, and a prominent amount of rye.

How much should a bottle of Blanton's cost? ›

Blanton's Gold Edition – MSRP: $105.00, Fair Price: $231.42, High Price: Over $324.99. Blanton's Black – MSRP: $199.99, Fair Price: $279.36, High Price: Over $400.99. Blanton's Straight From The Barrel – MSRP: $150.00, Fair Price: $300.35, High Price: Over $399.99.

How to get free Blanton's stave? ›

If you collect all 8 stoppers you can send them to Buffalo Trace Distillery who will mount them on a barrel stave for free.

Why is Blanton's so rare? ›

Scarcity and Demand

Each barrel is aged in a specific warehouse H, which has its unique microclimate, further limiting the production numbers. Moreover, the soaring demand for Blanton's, fueled by its cult status among bourbon enthusiasts and collectors, exacerbates its scarcity.

How many years is Blanton's single barrel aged? ›

Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is typically aged for 6 to 8 years. It is aged in Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace, which is the only metal-cladded warehouse at Buffalo Trace and was commissioned for construction by one of the distillery's early leaders, Albert B. Blanton, shortly after the end of the Prohibition era.

Is Blanton's better neat or on the rocks? ›

The deep and resonate finish on this bourbon is nothing short of legendary. Straight from the barrel is best served neat or with a splash of water.

What movie made Blanton's famous? ›

That's the case with the "John Wick" movie franchise and Blanton's bourbon from Kentucky. The titular character's drink of choice is bourbon, and the Blanton's brand can be spotted in more than one film in the series.

Why is Blanton so expensive? ›

Unlike mass-produced bourbons, Blanton's is a single barrel bourbon, meaning each bottle comes from a single barrel hand-selected from Warehouse H at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This meticulous selection process, coupled with limited bottling, creates a sense of exclusivity that fuels demand and drives the price up.

Does Blanton's go bad? ›

Bourbon also ceases to mature once it's emptied out of a barrel, and most bottles are purged of air before they're sealed. A cork closure may introduce a tiny bit of air over time, but stored with care, an unopened bottle of bourbon will remain unchanged for many years.

What makes Blanton's so special? ›

Color – Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon has a rich, deep amber hue due to its extended aging in new charred oak barrels. Nose – On the nose, you'll be greeted with a delightful combination of caramel and toffee. Spiciness such as clove and cinnamon also make their presence known.

What whiskey is most like Blanton's? ›

Bourbon Similar to Blanton's #5

John Bowman Single Barrel is Also distilled by Buffalo Trace but aged in Virginia (since its owned by Sazerac). This has more or less the same herbal and fruity sweetness, but is far richer and developed in virtually every way, outdoing Blanton's at its own game.

Is Blanton's gold hard to find? ›

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Bottle if you ever come across it in the wild. Personal Note: In all honesty, I love Blanton's Gold. It is pretty much my all-time favorite bourbon. It is very hard to get and not available in the US.

What is Blanton's Black label? ›

To close out week 2 of Bourbon Heritage Month, where I celebrated mashbill 2 of Buffalo Trace, I present Blanton's Black Label, a special Japanese exclusive bottled at 40% ABV rather than Original's 46.5%. This is effectively the Japanese version of the export-only Blanton's Green Label, and is nearly identical.

What are the different levels of Blanton's? ›

Varieties of Blanton's Releases
NameLabel ColorProof
Special ReserveGreen80
Black EditionBlack80
Red Takara Japanese Edition BourbonRed93
Silver EditionSilver98
3 more rows
Jun 29, 2017

How many Blanton's toppers are there? ›

Beginning in 1999 a collector's set of eight different stoppers was produced. The set features a horse and jockey in different strides and poses resembling the stages of a horse race, from beginning to end. Each stopper is marked with a single letter that spells Blanton's when the set has been completed.


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