Buffalo Trace, an iconic distillery near downtown Frankfort, Kentucky, makes a fine bourbon. It’s nice, and it’s relatively inexpensive. In the mid-20s or so.
Problem is, it’s getting much tougher to find, at least in North Carolina.
Dram & Draught, a subdued yet outstanding beer and whiskey bar in downtown Raleigh, has a barrel of the stuff, which, because of the Tar Heel State’s arcane liquor laws, was bottled to be shipped then dumped back into the barrel at the bar.
The bartender told me about it as I perused the extensive menu.
Twelve bucks for two ounces, he told me. Sold.
The bourbon may have lost something during that ridiculous process, or it may have gained something, too. I had a couple pours, which were smooth and rich with hints of tobacco, cherry and orange peel.
Buffalo Trace is hot, in the sense that it’s selling like crazy.
ABC stores, specifically in the western and east-central parts of the state stock it and people grab it, apparently by the armfuls.
Eagle Rare, which the distillery makes and is just as good if not better, is easy to find.
Bourbon drinkers — newbies, probably, and ill-informed, too — have learned Buffalo Trace also makes Pappy Van Winkle, whose popularity is enormous although mostly floating in myth and marketing.
Is it good, of course. Is it worth thousands of dollars a bottle? No, it isn’t. But the bourbon world has decided otherwise, so here come the residuals.
Pick up a bottle of BT while you can, and if you can. If not, then go with Jim Beam bonded or McKenna 10-year bonded. Or Wild Turkey 101, or dozens of other quality whiskies.
Avoid the marketing frenzies and the hype. Trust your palate and buy with a discerning eye. And don’t pay more than $30 for a fifth of a daily drinker.