On Monday, July 1, I was honored to join the barrel selection team from the original Market Square Liquors in Tallahassee on a trip to Buffalo Trace to pick several barrels for The Herd V, MSL’s small batch Buffalo Trace offering, and a Blanton’s single barrel selection. Suffice to say, this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I am still reeling from this trip (but not drunk!) so I thought I would once again give a shout-out to the fine folks at Market Square Liquors and share some photos from our barrel selection adventure.
Anyone that follows this blog knows that I often talk about the original Market Square Liquors on Timberlane Road in Tallahassee. I don’t do this because I have some personal agenda or because I’m simply trying to support a local business. I do it because I love bourbon and MSL really does have the best selection of bourbon in the entire Big Bend area. Believe me, I have been to pretty much every liquor store from Jacksonville to Biloxi and I have NEVER found a better selection. I’ve also never been to a store that delivers as many quality barrel selections as MSL does on a regular basis. Part of the reason MSL can do this is because the people behind the scenes, including the barrel selection team, have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience in the bourbon industry that is unparalleled. Indeed, I think you would be hard-pressed to find any other store in Florida, and perhaps the entire Southeast, with a team that has anywhere near the knowledge, experience,and prowess as the MSL barrel team possesses.
The reality is, the bourbon community in Tallahassee is fortunate to have MSL as a resource and I am beyond grateful to have been included in this trip. So without any further soapboxing, here are a few highlights from the trip!
On a beautiful 80 degree Florida morning, the barrel team loaded into this top-of-the-line Cessna Citation and made our way to Frankfort, Kentucky, the capital of the Bluegrass state and home of the Buffalo Trace distillery. Obviously, this team knows how to arrive in style!
Of course, the barrel team is going to enjoy some fine bourbon along the way. For this trip, we enjoyed a bottle of Old Fitzgerald 14-year bottled-in-bond bourbon. There is no better breakfast to be had!
If you are interested in this bottle, you can check out my original review of it here.
After a short 90-minute flight, we arrived in Frankfort and made our way to Buffalo Trace. If you haven’t had the chance to visit this historic site, you are really missing out! Buffalo Trace is the oldest continually operating distillery in the U.S., having been in operation for more than 200 years, and the grounds are nothing short of amazing. You are literally surrounded by history (and bourbon) everywhere you go and I personally don’t think there is any place comparable to Buffalo Trace on the bourbon trail. Also, once you smell the inside of a Buffalo Trace warehouse you will never want to leave!
Once we arrived at the distillery, we made our way to Warehouse H. This warehouse was built in 1934 and houses nearly 16,000 barrels of whiskey and a tasting room. This particular warehouse is surrounded by a metal shell, which allows it to warm quicker during the day and cool faster in the evening. This creates a larger temperature variation, which in turn facilitates the aging process. This was the reason Colonel Albert B. Blanton chose Warehouse H as the site to age his finest bourbon.
For our tasting, we were given a selection of 18 barrels, consisting of 15 barrels of Buffalo Trace and 3 Blanton’s barrels. We were also given the opportunity to taste each barrel at barrel proof and at the lower bottling proof. It was really amazing to experience all of the nuances from barrel to barrel and the change in the flavor profile for each barrel after it was proofed down.
After a grueling hour of tasting some damn fine bourbon, we deliberated, pooled our notes, and realized there were some clear winners from our tasting. The team ultimately selected 5 barrels of Buffalo Trace for the Herd blend and a barrel of Blanton’s. Admittedly, I may be a little biased here, but bourbon aficionados in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas are in for a real treat once this bourbon makes it back to the Capital City! The Buffalo Trace blend is extremely well-balanced, providing a nice sweet and spicy profile with a long, warm finish. And the Blanton’s barrel possessed all those characteristics that make Blanton’s great, but with additional complexity and more kick on the palate.
After the tasting, we stopped off at the Firehouse Sandwich Shop onsite for a quick lunch and had a nice chat with Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley. Harlen is the man behind all of the amazing bourbon coming out of Buffalo Trace. I’m sure we could have spent the entire day talking bourbon with Harlen, but suffice to say he is a busy man!
After a few amazing hours at the distillery, we loaded up the plane with a few bottles of Eagle Rare and began our short trip back to Tallahassee. It’s amazing how much good bourbon can be consumed on such a short trip! Maybe it was just the bourbon, but Kentucky looked beautiful from 42,000 feet!
For anyone reading this article and following this blog, let me say thank you again for your support. I’ve had some amazing opportunities since I started this blog and I will do my best to continue to share my bourbon adventures.
Make sure you stop by the original Market Square Liquors on Timberlane Road and get your hands on the Herd V (in the near future) and all of MSL’s other great barrel selections.