The first thing you need to know about the Trader Joe’s bourbon is that they didn’t actually distill it. There isn’t a Trader Joe’s distillery hanging out in Kentucky where you can have a whiskey tasting accompanied by peanut butter filled pretzels and sesame coated cashews. This is a private labeling of another distillery’s work and that distillery is the one and only Buffalo Trace.
Before you go running on down to TJ’s thinking you got yourself one hell of a bargain on some quality BT juice you need to hold your horses and hear the rest of the story. While the distiller is Buffalo Trace it doesn’t come from the same distillery that makes the Buffalo Trace we know and love. It comes from their Barton 1792 Distillery which makes their other bourbons like Ten High, Very Old Barton and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.
The first thing I noticed when opening the bottle is how sweet this bourbon is and how much the rye sticks out. It’s beyond the typical sweetness of bourbon (brought on by corn and newly charred oak) and almost borders on dessert territory which initially I kinda liked, but quickly became cloying and was accompanied by a creeping stringency. This isn’t a bourbon I could drink all night at a get-together and it definitely couldn’t be a daily drinker for me either.
Overall I’d say that at it’s price it’s not too bad and you could definitely do a lot worse. It’s not terrible neat, it’s a little better on the rocks, decent in cocktails and if you like to cook with bourbon as much as I do it’s absolutely fantastic for that. I’ve used it in many dishes and the sweetness works really well in sauces, glazes, batters or in a brown sugar bourbon sauce for ice cream. You could definitely do worse for $15, but for only $5 more you can also do a whole lot better.
If you’ve tried the Trader Joe’s Bourbon I’d love to hear your thoughts or tasting notes in the comments below.
Trader Joe’s Bourbon Review
Distiller: Buffalo Trace (Barton 1792 Distillery)
Golden brown with a touch of red
Caramel comes shooting out of the glass followed by some mildly oaky toffee and a bit of orange peel like citrus. There is some vanilla in there, but it’s feint and competes with rye, some tropical fruit, molasses, banana bread and an astringency that gets stronger with time.
Again the sugary sweet caramel is bold upfront and followed by a healthy dose of bourbon spice. A bit of cinnamon, something akin to kettle corn and a mild oakiness play tag with a light bit of vanilla. There is some astringency creeping around in there that adds an odd element to the whole flavor.
A bit dry but remarkably smooth.
Caramel quickly fades to a woody dark fruit and dill finish that is very short lived.