Monthly Archives: March 2008

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

buffalo traceI chose Buffalo Trace as the inaugural spirit for this blog on the recommendation of one of the employees at LeNell’s, here in Brooklyn. It was described to me as a no-nonsense, and relatively muscular burbon, but after tasting it, the picture turned out to be a bit more complicated.


Buffalo Trace relies heavily on a sense of American national nostalgia to sell its product. From the faux-ripped label, to the back label’s tedious reliance on adjectives such as “bold,” “mighty,” “pioneering,” “tradition,” handcrafted,” and “confident,” this is not a marketing strategy that sees fit to engage in subtlety. The buyer is supposed to imagine himself (it is not geared toward the feminine) as returning to a hardier, purer time when the art of crafting liquor was imperfect yet honored, there were buffalo in Kentucky, and bold men made mighty spirits.

I’m a sucker for nostalgia as much as the next guy, but c’mon BT, ease up a bit.


Upon first opening the bottle there was an immediate wave of vanilla – sweet and clean. An interesting way for such a “mighty” drink to begin.

When drinking, the first bits of character I noticed were a sweetness, wet earth, and what could only be called meaty oak. There was plenty of substance to it, but a much gentler introduction than I had expected.

The finish was surprisingly clean but with a bit of a lingering sensation of post-rain spring air, a bit of char, and an almost-floral quality. I was not expecting that in the least. Add a little water and the almost-floral character becomes dominant.


I was really surprised by this bourbon. I was expecting a rough-and-tumble whiskey with a healthy whack of (perhaps complex) flavor. In fact, it was far more subtle and gentle, presenting an earthier and friendlier over all character.

I wouldn’t say that Buffalo Trace is lacking in strength, rather it surprised me in the depth it displayed beyond the traditional bourbon character.

The presentation and marketing irks me a little, playing into the idea that whiskies must represent the past to vodka’s future. Ultimately, the marketing material on the bottle serves mostly to corner the drink into a limiting category of national nostalgia when in fact it seems to be eschewing older definitions of bourbon and looking toward new possibilities – as evidenced by the apparent critical acclaim.

This was a good whiskey to begin this blog.


Welcome to American Hooch

clynelishandglassAs I sit here writing the first entry on this blog, a glass of Clynelish 14 sits next to me; back on the shelf there are a few more bottles of single malt Scotch, and I can name at least one friendship that exists largely on the basis of Laphroaig.

I am a Scotch drinker and I am an American – and that is why I am starting this blog.

American Hooch exists as an impetus to learn more about the spirits from the land of my forefathers. Here, I will document the progression of my American whisky (to ‘e’ or not to ‘e’?) education.

It seems imprudent to use the first post to outline the posts that may follow – I know blogs well enough to say that they take courses of their own. However, if I were to venture a guess, I would say that detailed descriptions/reviews of my American whisky encounters would be the steak and mashed potatoes, with commentary on my research through already well-traversed ground serving as the steamed green beans of this all-American meal.

As for the name, firstly – it’s catchy. Secondly, perhaps it’s time we reclaim a derogatory term and taste it for what it is.

American Hooch. There it is.