By definition all Bourbons are whiskey but not all whiskies are bourbon. This is because of the definition of Bourbon from Title 27 of the US Code of Federal Regulations. Title 27 states that Bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn, made in America, placed in new charred oak container, distilled at 160º proof or below, placed in a container at no more than 125º proof, and no additional color or flavor can be added.
While some may claim that Bourbon needs to be distilled in Kentucky or even more specifically Bourbon County, officially there is no requirement other than in the USA for location. Others may claim that there needs to be a time elapse for the spirit to be in the oak container. This is not the case. If a Bourbon producer wants to put the spirit in a new oak container and immediately transfer the spirit to bottle it can still be classified as a Bourbon. Now this will prevent some of the harshness from the young spirit that oak tends to draw out of the spirit and the oak container cannot be used again for the production of bourbon, but if a producer would like to make a harsh bourbon while using a tremendous number of oak containers nothing is stoping them.
Additional clarifications have been given to tie Bourbon to a location or aging requirement. Kentucky Bourbon is required by Kentucky State Law to be distilled and aged in Kentucky for at least two years. While this is only a state law it is generally accepted as an international requirement. Also Straight Bourbon must be aged for at least two years. If aged for less than four years it requires an age statement.
Because of Title 27, Bourbon cannot be produced in Japan. There are some Bourbons that are easier to find in Japan and some that are only available in Japan. Blanton’s is a brand produced by The Buffalo Trace Distillery. They have several bottles that are either offered overseas as well or exclusively. Blanton’s prides itself on being the first of the premium bourbons that is single barrel. That means that the unique flavors of the barrel are transferred directly into the bottle and bottles from different barrels are going to have somewhat of a different taste. The master distillers will strive to get the Blanton’s taste as similar as possible, but there will be differences in each bottle. If the consumers pallet is refined enough they may distinguish the differences. To identify the uniqueness of the single barrel each bottle of Blanton’s is marked with the Date Dumped, Barrel No., Warehouse, and Rick No. in addition to the legally required information. The regular Blanton’s only difference with the Japanese having Japanese writing on the label. The Blanton’s Special Reserve not only has Japanese writing but is also packaged in a velvet bag.
Blanton’s: Dumped on 5-7-2020, Barrel No. 610, Warehouse H, Rick No. 1, 93 Proof, Bottle No. 163: Definite vanilla aroma is first on the nose. The smell of alcohol comes out when the glass is agitated. The spirit has a golden amber color. Thick legs that are spaced apart when swirled appear on the sides of the glass. The mouthfeel is velvety smooth. A definite alcohol burn comes on the cheeks and back of throat. There is a sweet hard candy flavor with a woody taste behind the sweetness. No lingering sweetness on the aftertaste. A persistent tingle on the tongue and mouth from the alcohol. Breathing through your nose on the aftertaste gives a oak aroma sensation in the nostrils.
Blanton’s Japan: Dumped on 2-16-21, Barrel No. 72, Warehouse H, Rick No. 35, 93 Proof, Bottle No. 158: The initial pour the spirit has a straw aroma to the smell. After the glass sits a while a caramel aroma with sweet vanilla comes on more. During the taste there is an oak scent. The color of the Bourbon is golden amber. There is a slight alcohol burn on the mouth. A caramel sweetness dominates the flavor. The aftertastes has a lingering tingle on the mouth tongue and cheeks. There is a slight sweet aftertaste and lingering oak flavor that persist in the back of the throat and into the nasal passage.
Blanton’s Special Reserve: Dumped on 2-12-2021, Barrel No. 21, Wareouse H, Rick No. 53, 80 Proof, Bottle No. 247: The glass has a lightly toasted cedar aroma. It was a very pleasant smell. No harsh alcohol aromas are mixed in. Underneath the cedar aroma there is a very faint tobacco leaves smell. Not the burning cigar smoke, but if you smelled the cigar before it was lit or walked into a humidor. The spirit had a slightly lighter golden color. Very smooth mouthfeel. A distinct caramel sweetness with hints of dried fruits like dried cherries and prunes comes on the nose. There is a cedar taste on the back end. All are very gentle flavors. This makes sense that this style is offered in the Japanese market. Japanese cedar is a persistent aroma in traditional houses and cedar is the wood used for the traditional wooden sake cups (masu).
These three bottles are all labeled as Blanton’s, but each have a unique flavor to them. This perfectly demonstrates the differences of single barrel Bourbons. Each have unique flavors and in the case of the Special Reserve are uniquely suited to the Japanese market.