It seemed for years that Elmer T. Lee was somewhat of a ghost. Even though I'm surrounded by Binny's Beverage Depots and have countless other well-stocked liquor stores in my area, and despite that I'm frequently inside these establishments, I never seemed to run across a bottle of Elmer T. Lee.
It really made me quite sad. After all, everything I've ever heard on the interwebs is that not only is this very good stuff, but it's also very affordable. I'm sure that, plus the fact that Buffalo Trace has really limited the number of bottles of each batch being released, leads to its scarcity.
I made a new friend recently, though, the type of friend every whiskey lover should have--my local liquor store owner. His store is not the big box Binny's. In fact, it's the small, strip-mall liquor store with a generic name and somewhat higher prices, but within a bike ride from home. I've managed to befriend the owner, and on a recent trip to pick up some wine for my wife, he made it a point to let me know that he had a bottle of Elmer T. Lee sitting in the back and asked if I was interested. I fought hard to hold back the girlish squeal of delight, and resisted the urge to hug that beautiful man, and graciously said yes and thanked him profusely for letting me know he had it.
I paid a bit more--$42 when it can be had for $35--but I can rationalize that purchase a million ways, including the fact that he's my new best friend and I just want to help support the local small business.
Anyway, this is possibly the longest intro I've had on one of my blog posts, so on to the booze I go. Upon cracking this bottle open, with only one whiff I knew I would like it. The nose was vanilla-heavy, along with pleasant aromas of pipe tobacco and coffee. This is one of those bourbons that I could sit and sniff for an hour before taking a drink.
The first sip was really incredible. I was worried about this bourbon being over-hyped, and unable to live up to the standards set on various message boards and blogs. But that wasn't the case. This is a damn good bourbon, smooth and sweet, that's heavy on the vanilla to match its nose. It has a light spice to it, and cocoa and coffee flavors push their way through on the back end. At 90 proof, it lacked a bit of the robustness that this bourbon might otherwise have closer to cask strength, but it was nonetheless full of flavor and complexity.
My impression of the first few pours I had was that this is a very dessert-like bourbon, like tiramisu in a glass!
What threw me for a loop, though, is that while the first few pours were home runs, as I neared the end of the bottle, what I loved most about this bourbon seemed to disappear. Although it remained a very good bourbon, it lost its knock-your-socks off appeal. I can't explain it, except that it lost some of its sweetness and the vanilla bomb seemed to fizzle.
In the end, this is still an incredible bourbon, one that I will always keep an eye out for, and that I will not hesitate to grab off the shelf when I find it.