Every Buffalo Trace Distillery Bourbon Brand, Ranked - Tasting Table (2024)

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Every Buffalo Trace Distillery Bourbon Brand, Ranked - Tasting Table (1)

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ByKenny Jarvis/

Buffalo Trace is one of the biggest whiskey producers in the world.Nestled in the heart of Kentucky, the Buffalo Trace Distillery has become known for its dedication to quality and impressive range of whiskeys. While its flagship namesake bourbon remains extremely popular, the distillery that creates it is responsible for a plethora of other incredible alcohol brands, as well.

Now, Buffalo Trace may have long since diversified into other spirits beyond whiskey. But rather than focus on every liquor it makes, we decided to delvesolely into the bourbon brands produced by this iconic distillery to see how they compare. From immensely valuable varieties to exorbitantly expensive bottles, thedistillery has something for any bourbon lover (including several of thebest bourbon brandson the market).

Given my expertise and knowledge of whiskey — including my own personal history with virtually every bourbon produced by the distillery — I've assembled a list of Buffalo Trace's bourbon brands and ranked them based on factors such as taste, availability, and affordability. I've spent many years enjoying a huge variety of bourbons, and feel well-placed to see how these brands stack up. Join me on a journey through the hallowed halls of the Buffalo Trace Distillery as we celebrate its history and rank its many bourbon brands.

13. Old Charter

It was tricky to rank some of these brands, and we start with a good example. To be clear:Old Charter's classic Kentucky straight whiskey isn't special. In fact, it's a budget bourbon that's perfectly acceptable in a co*cktail or a mixer — but doesn't deserve much more love than that. Our difficulty in ranking it comes from the brand'sOld Charter Oak whiskeys with extended maturation and unique barrel finishing.

But while the Old Charter Oak varieties are much nicer, they're also less well-known. Since we're mainly focused on the more widely seen expressions — for this and every brand on this list –Old Charter sits in last place. Simply put,Old Charter's taste and reputation pale in comparison to other brands under the Buffalo Trace umbrella.

Any whiskey aficionado knows there's joy in tasting how one bourbon differs from the next — and Old Charter struggles with its lack of individuality. While still smooth and mellow with subtle hints of oak and spice, it lacks the depth or complexity required to qualify as a sipping bourbon. It may be one of the better cheap bourbons out there, but compared to some legendary brands further down this list? It can't compete.

12. Ancient Age

Ancient Age has an interesting history. Though it was first introduced in 1946, the distillery hasn't seemed to know what to do with the brand in recent years. It has a once-popular 10-year whiskey — which morphed into the deceptively named 10 Star — and also an 8-year bourbon that's sold exclusively in Japan. What do all these expressions have in common? Along with being Kentucky straight bourbon, each can be had at an affordable retail price.

Of course, even if it's less expensive than other Buffalo Trace bourbons, the spirit lacks refinement and complexity. Whether the 10 Star or its regular bourbon, Ancient Age is light in flavor, which doesn't leave much of an impression. The best feature of this brand is the clean finish, but the oak and honey influences aren't notable enough to leave you wanting more. Furthermore, budget bourbons usually have the benefit of being easily available — and that isn't the case with Ancient Age.

Adding to its issues, the packaging lacks sophistication and needs a modern upgrade. You may want to grab a bottle if you've never had it before (merely to satisfy your curiosity). However, it's not highly recommended beyond that. This bourbon brand could have a revival in the future, but it's a weak member of the Buffalo Trace line-up as is. Between its relative scarcity and lackluster flavor, it comes in second-to-last.

11. Benchmark

If Ancient Age suffers from a lack of options and availability, Benchmark has no such problem. The brand offers a well-known Kentucky straight bourbon along with a variety of other expressions. If you're wondering why it ranks so low, it's more about the exceptional quality of the 10 bourbons ranked higher than a negative reflection of the brand. After all,Benchmark is an affordable bourbon brand that offers an accessible entry point for anyone looking to explore everything Buffalo Trace has to offer.

Of course, affordability often goes hand-in-hand with a product's quality level — and that's true here. It's not that there's anything wrong with its standard bourbon (Old No. 8). Rather, it simply doesn't have the intricacies found in expressions produced by other Buffalo Trace bourbon brands. The brand's other offerings can be impressive, though, especially its Full Proof bourbon. The 125 proof whiskey features notes of brown sugar and cocoa alongside classic bourbon flavors of caramel and vanilla (and not-so-coincidentally made our list of best high-proof bourbons).

Benchmark shines by offering burgeoning bourbon enthusiasts a chance to explore decent whiskeys without breaking the bank. It generally delivers a straightforward and approachable taste that can be enjoyed by anyone. Despite those plus points, we felt it couldn't be ranked any higher due to the lack of depth and nuance across its drinks.

10. Traveller Whiskey

Traveller Whiskey is a little different than most since it'smade in collaboration with a famous name:multi-Grammy winner Chris Stapleton. Another unique aspect is that it's made from a secret blend of other whiskeys made by the Buffalo Trace distillery. Despite being a blend, Traveller offers a distinctive and impressive tasting experience. We feltTraveller hit all the right notes when samplingthe bourbon, with caramel and butterscotch being the most notable sweeter tastes.

For added depth, you'll get oak with a hint of smoke. This adds to a pleasurable sip — especially for those who enjoy a velvety mouthfeel from their bourbon. Plus, while many collaborative whiskeys can be overpriced, Traveller Whiskey is on the other end of the scale. At an average price of $39, it's still affordable for those wanting to try something different.

This is a whiskey that will no doubt appeal to those looking beyond the biggest brands. It's not as widely available as some other Buffalo Trace brands and doesn't have that elite quality, which affects its ranking here (hence its number 10 placement). Still, for those craving a unique and enjoyable whiskey experience, you should add Traveller Whiskey to your wish list.

9. Buffalo Trace

We found this the hardest bourbon brand to place for a couple of reasons. First, while far from the tastiest whiskey on the list, theBuffalo Trace Kentucky straight bourbon is an incredible value for money. There's a reason we ranked it so high on our list of popular Kentucky bourbons.The second is that many different types of bourbon carry the Buffalo Trace name, such as those from its prohibition and experimental collection, and its Single Oak Project and Kosher Whiskey.

However, we wanted to focus on the brand's flagship bottle which can be found on almost any liquor store shelf. Frankly, it's a whiskey that won't blow your mind, but there's a reason it's the everyday bourbon for many whiskey lovers. Despite being considered a mid-range whiskey, Buffalo Trace delivers a flavor profile that can compete with whiskeys twice the cost. It has the quality to be sipped neat and is popular with both casual drinkers and seasoned connoisseurs. Its ranking here is also supported by its widespread availability, meaning anyone can easily pick up a bottle.

Is it the best bourbon in the world? Far from it — but it should be appreciated for what it is. The well-balanced flavor — which elegantly showcases the classical bourbon notes of vanilla and oak — makes it a versatile expression and one that deserves its immense popularity.

8. Van Winkle

If Buffalo Trace's rank was impacted by its taste, the issue withVan Winklecame down to its cost. This bourbon brand bears the name of Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr., who started his career off as a salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons before buying out the brand and creating his own whiskey. Van Winkle bourbon is undoubtedly exceptional — but it's also exceptionally expensive with limited availability.

The prestigious whiskey brand deserves reverence and admiration. The quality is strictly controlled throughout its expressions, especially the Pappy Van Winkle releases. The common theme across these whiskeys is a beautifully sweet nose that's backed up by a luxurious caramel taste and a finish that seems to last forever. It changes between releases, and you'll be able to enjoy many other tasting notes, such as berries, nuts, and a variety of spices.

Van Winkle's retail price may be reasonable, but it's tremendously difficult to find a bottle at that cost. Simply put, the value for the money just isn't there if purchasing a bottle on a secondary market. Its scarcity certainly adds to its allure (making it a prized possession among collectors). But for most bourbon lovers, getting your hands on a bottle can feel out of reach. Due to that, we prefer the higher-ranked brands produced by Buffalo Trace.

7. George T. Stagg

Before 1999, the Buffalo Trace Distillery was known as the George T. Stagg Distillery. Stagg was a whiskey salesman who used his knowledge to make bourbon and the whiskey that bears Stagg's name shares many similarities to Van Winkle. The spirit has tremendous quality and complexity ... but it's alsorare and expensive. In fact, unless you're lucky enough tofind this rare bourbon in Costco or shortly after it's released? You may end uppaying over $1,000 for a bottle.

A part of Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection, George T. Stagg bourbon is aged for a minimum of 15 years and sold uncut and unfiltered. This generally gives it a very high proof. There is also Stagg bourbon (seen as a more affordable and accessible expression), but it can also be difficult to find outside its releases. Both bourbons can taste different from one batch to the next, but you're guaranteed a powerful and intense spirit.

The signature of these bourbons is their chocolatey flavor, along with more earthy notes of tobacco and leather. Added to this, a spicy finish usually completes an epic tasting experience. George T. Staggbourbon isn't for the faint-hearted, as the high proof may be too overpowering to those with a preference for milder spirits. However, for those who crave robust and powerful whiskeys, Stagg whiskey deserves its spot. But with such an exorbitant price point, it can't rank higher than seventh.

6. Rock Hill Farms

Here we have a bourbon not named after a person butnamed after farmland along the Kentucky River. This is one of the best single-barrel bourbons you can buy and offers a distinct drinking experience with every bottle. Yet this is one of the few brands from Buffalo Trace that only has one expression.

Rock Hill Farms whiskey is loved for being fruitier than many of its rivals while having plenty of robust depth with oak and spice to go with the sweeter notes. The 100 proof hits perfectly and has plenty of strength without needing to be watered down (although adding some ice can be a good idea). Additionally, as a single-barrel bourbon, each bottle represents a unique expression, with this lack of consistency being celebrated rather than seen as a negative. This variability adds an element of discovery, though each batch still gives you exceptional quality.

While still a premium-priced bourbon, it's not quite as expensive as others on this list. Adding to its brand appeal is an elegant bottle that could easily pass for a high-quality decanter without the branding. Its availability can be an issue (and combined with its limited product line keep it out of the top five). But with its exceptional profile, it deserves to be at the higher end of the list.

5. W.L. Weller

Back to the named bourbons, this expression is named after William Larue Weller– another man who created his own whiskey business. Fast forward to today, and W.L. Weller's uniqueness comes from using wheat in the mash bill instead of rye. This change means it'smuch smoother than many of its rivals(without the spice you get from rye). Whether this is good or bad depends on your personal preference, but its range of whiskeys gives you a luxury drinking experience with a pleasant mouthfeel.

W.L. Weller's collection has a wide range of expressions which — while still expensive – are more affordable than the Van Winkle and Stagg whiskeys ranked below it. Each bourbon is different, as well, though whiskeys from this brand commonly have an approachable flavor profile; its notes of caramel and vanilla are particularly beautiful. Whether you dislike rye's influence on bourbon or simply prefer a change now and again, W.L. Weller whiskeys are a phenomenal choice. Its limited availability and cost may pose a challenge for some consumers (hence it ranks below the top-four bourbon brands). But if you have the chance to taste W.L. Weller bourbon, you won't regret it.

4. Elmer T. Lee

This brand is named afterElmer T. Lee, whojoined the distillery in 1949 as a maintenance engineer before eventually working his way up to master distiller. As a result, he was honored with the naming of this single-barrel bourbon, which has become one of the most sought-after top-shelf bourbonson the market. Except for special releases, this is another one-expression brand from Buffalo Trace — though a smooth and complex one that manages to perfectly balance its range of flavors.

Along with the classic bourbon notes, it offers plenty of spice and some char on the palate. The balance is helped by a range of fruits that help make this a complex whiskey with plenty of depth. It deserves its high ranking as it ticks all the right boxes on what makes a good bourbon. As with many on this list, its availability and cost can frustrate some bourbon lovers, but it's not surprising why this brand is highly respected. As with any single-barrel offering, there will be inconsistencies between its releases, but this only adds to its charm. Quite simply, its fourth-place ranking is well-deserved.

3. Blanton's

The category of single-barrel bourbons was bornthanks to Blanton's. Named after Albert B. Blanton– a former distillery president who originally started with the company as a 16-year-old office boy — this bourbon has become synonymous for its rich and complex flavor profile. The distillery produces many powerful bourbons, but Blanton's is known for being more balanced and elegant than most.

The caramel and honeyed sweetness are often stunningly deep and usually accompanied by other notes such as peppery spice, citrus, and dried fruit. Very few bourbons offer both incredible depth and smoothness, but expressions from Blanton's usually do just that. Of course, part of Blanton's appeal comes from its branding — including its unique bottle design. That design includes eight bottle toppers with a horse and jockey in different positions. Each also has a letter on it, which can eventually spell "Blanton's" if you collect them all.

Now, this distinctive packaging sets it apart but would mean very little if the liquid inside doesn't deliver. Thankfully, it's one of the tastiest bourbons out there, which is why it's always in high demand. Bottles can be scarce, but we've also seen it on plenty of bar shelves. It ranks in third place thanks to its sophistication and collectability — and its status as a revered brand in the whiskey community.

2. E.H. Taylor Jr.

This bourbon brand is named after the legendary Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr. He was a bourbon pioneer and innovator who founded the distillery that would eventually become Buffalo Trace. It pays homage to his legacy and does his name justice with many beautiful expressions. E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon is the most accessible of these whiskeys and is known for its smooth and full-bodied taste. That richness in flavor can be found across its expressions which generally have an elegant sweetness and an impressive depth of flavor.

Price and availability can sometimes be an issue (a common theme with the distillery's brands), but not always. Its Small Batch is usually easy to find, for instance. Additionally, while it may have a premium price tag, it's worth paying for a bourbon that demands to be savored neat.

In many ways, E.H. Taylor Jr. is a perfect example of what makes the Buffalo Trace Distillery special. It's a brand that's rooted in history and tradition, and delivers exceptional quality time and time again. The only reason it doesn't get the top spot here is the incredible value for money found with our number one bourbon brand.

1. Eagle Rare

Coming in at number one is the Buffalo Trace bourbon brand that most perfectly balances taste and cost. Not only is Eagle Rare a delicious whiskey, but its Kentucky straight bourbon is readily available at a fairly affordable price. Of course, this bourbon brand could easily have the same price tag as some of its more expensive siblings if it were sold in lower quantities.

The 10-year aging of its flagship bottle gives it an elegant smoothness. It has a rich, complex flavor profile that beautifully showcases its notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. While its most affordable expression shines bright, Eagle Rare also satisfies those seeking more indulgence. The two Double Eagle expressions (17-year and 20-year)may be out of reach for most consumers, but they help to give the brand a sense of luxury.

Eagle Rare's widespread acclaim is much deserved. It showcases the heritage of the Buffalo Trace Distillery and is yet another example of the incredible diversity of its brands. Though several other brands could have reached the top spot here, in the end? We felt Eagle Rare is the best Buffalo Trace bourbon brand of all.

Methodology

Every Buffalo Trace Distillery Bourbon Brand, Ranked - Tasting Table (15)

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I've personally sampled whiskeys from the vast majority of Buffalo Trace brands included on this list. While I have not tried Traveller Whiskey myself, a review from my Tasting Table colleague (Sara Kay) ensured we had every brand covered with firsthand experience. Additionally, I'm passionate about the history and craftsmanship of this fine spirit. I'm very much a student of the bourbon world –and that learning has involved a journey through almost everything Buffalo Trace has to offer.

Several factors were taken into account when deciding the rankings (aside from taste), including brand appeal and marketing. Value for money was very important, as well, given our appreciation for bourbons that are readily available to the average consumer. That said, iconic brands that released incredible bourbons still commanded a great deal of weight — regardless of the cost. Hopefully, this resulted in a ranking that represents a fair reflection of these brands beyond the basic measurement of taste.

Every Buffalo Trace Distillery Bourbon Brand, Ranked - Tasting Table (2024)
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