The Barrel Selections at Eight Row Flint: Part 3

Easily, one of the most memorable barrel picks to date happened in early 2016 at Buffalo Trace with Preston Van Winkle.  Yep…that Van Winkle.

For someone into bourbon, where does one go from there—try and resurrect Pappy himself?

A mutual friend had connected us the previous year for drinks, and we hit it off.  I reached out and told him Buffalo Trace had approved a single barrel of Weller Antique for Eight Row—then threw a line out asking if he had time to help me taste through those barrels and hopefully come to a decision.  He obliged.

This trip to Kentucky was less than 36 hours.  Late night flight into Louisville.  Check into the Brown Hotel.  Sleep a little.  Wake up and head to Buffalo Trace, an hour and a half East.

We met Preston at the distillery and walked into the Blanton’s warehouse—called so because Elmer T. realized that this particular rickhouse threw off super-consistent, super-delicious barrels of bourbon. The lower floors typically get bottled as Blanton’s single barrels, hence the name.

This is also the rickhouse in which all of Buffalo Trace’s proprietary single barrel picks take place.

We walk in.  I’m nervous.  For the first time, it has crossed my mind that I’ve asked Preston Van Winkle to help me choose a barrel—what if we don’t agree on the same barrel?  Who am I to disagree with bourbon familial Illuminati?

Beau Beckman, who heads up this whole proprietary single barrel situation at Buffalo Trace, warmly welcomes us into a cold as sh*t rickhouse in central Kentucky in the middle of February.  Preston look at me and says, “Lets not talk until the end.” I’m like, “Yeah, that.”

There were four samples.  After working our way through the samples, we both pointed to the two we liked:  1 and 3 for Preston, 3 and 4 for me.  At least there was some middle ground—number 3.  We could have left it at that, I suppose, and just gone for number 3 since we both liked it, but he then made the case that he liked number 1 more than 3, and I did the same for number 4.

Panic.

We then talked through why he liked number 1.  I did the same for number 4.  We eventually ruled out number 4 and faced the dilemma.  They’re both delicious. Which one do we go with?

Beau steps in.  “Hey fellas, take a walk. I’m going to set them up, and you can both blind-taste them.”  Relieved, my future wife let out a sigh of relief.  We took the walk.

Reconvening moments later, we tasted through both, deciding that the best thing to do was to, again, simultaneously point at the one we preferred.  

We both landed on number 3. Fistifcuffs and awkwardness avoided all together.

When that barrel came to Eight Row Flint, it arrived at the normal Weller Antique 107 Proof, and I drank it as if it would never run out.  It did though—sonofabitch—but not without changing my own personal perspective on how the flavor profile of bourbon, at least in my own personal head, should taste.

Lindsey Brown