I first met Elmer T. Lee when he visited me at the United Distillers Archives and I like to think we became friends. He had a real love of the history of the industry and shared many of his experiences with me during that first meeting. For the next two decades I talked with him many times and with each discussion I learned something new. The man was a font of wisdom. One of the things he told me was that his single barrel Bourbon was the same mash bill as Blanton’s but aged longer and in the brick warehouses. I always found that I liked the Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel better than Blanton’s but that may be because I really liked Elmer. That is part of the ephemeral nature of tasting whiskey – sometimes the experience is as important as the whiskey.
Elmer passed away in 2013. He used to be part of the selection process for his namesake brand and he did a good job training the people who carry on the barrel selections. It is still one of my favorite single barrel Bourbons. Every time I take a drink I fondly remember that first meeting and the man behind the brand.
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Sour Mash Bourbon
Age: No Age Statement (Elmer told me he liked the 7-9 year old range).
Nose: Caramel apples and oak wood with some baking spices and leather in the background.
Taste: Very rich caramel with a touch of honey, apples and berries with nutmeg and allspice. Tasted with a cranberry and the apple becomes a very ripe and sweet apple and the spices are reduced in strength but still hiding in the background. Tasted with a pecan, the fruit almost disappears and the oak comes forward and the spice becomes peppery.
Finish: Long. It starts fruity with apple and oak but dries out with spices and oak. The cranberry enhances the oak in a very good way and the pecan makes the finish very dry with oak and pepper spice.
I have chosen an Arturo Fuente Anejo Reserva Xtra Viejo cigar to go with this Bourbon. I find the smoke a bit spicy with hints of chocolate and cedar. With the Bourbon the smoke becomes more chocolate and less cedar while the smoke brings out the berries in the Bourbon and adds a vanilla creaminess to the flavor. This is an excellent pairing.
I hope that others will enjoy this Bourbon and when they do think about the man, Elmer T. Lee. Enjoying his Bourbon and remembering the man is the best tribute to this legendary personality.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller