Score: 84 points
This series includes three essentially identical Bourbons from Buffalo Trace, all from the same mashbill and matured in similar casks for the same 12-year period. The only differences are the levels of the warehouse, with one whiskey matured on the ground floor, one on the fifth floor, and one on the top floor of the 9-story warehouse — with the goal being to determine what difference the level of the warehouse makes. All three whiskies were bottled at 45% ABV to keep things consistent.
Floor #1: The nose is smooth and aromatic with good oakiness, mild spices, and hints of honey and dark chocolate. The taste is spicy with chili powder and cinnamon on top and smoother notes of honey, caramel, and dark chocolate underneath. The finish is short and fades away quickly with hints of oak and caramel. Scored separately, it gets an 86.
Floor #5: The nose is spicier, but also drier with muted oak, a hint of honey, and a dark chocolate note that gets stronger with time. The taste is spicy, but with more complexity and balance between the chili powder/cinnamon spices and the undertones of honey, oak, and dark chocolate that are more apparent. The finish is longer with more oak, dark chocolate, and honey notes apparent. Scored separately, this would be my favorite of the three with a score of 88.
Floor #9: This is usually the hottest part of the warehouse, and the nose is classic Bourbon with oak, caramel, cinnamon, honey, and hints of nutmeg. The taste is spicy to the extreme, with cinnamon aggressively dominating the palate and a hint of tartness underneath, along with subtle touches of oak, black pepper, and honey. The finish is long with lingering cinnamon spices. Scored separately, this one gets an 83.
Conclusion: There’s a reason why Bourbon producers blend barrels from different levels of a warehouse together or choose to rotate them between some floors. Each level brings something unique to the final whiskey, but on their own, there’s a good chance that some notes will dominate while others disappear into the background. The whiskey from Floor #5 might be a good candidate for a single barrel release, followed by Floor #1. However, the whiskey from Floor #9 brings a classic nose to a small batch bottling, but would not be rated well as a single barrel release. (June, 2014)