Last Thursday the tasting panel got together to pick the next Binny’s Hand Picked Buffalo Trace. We’ve done this a few times before. Check out entries on the Binny’s Blog about the last couple Binny’s Buffalo Trace batches here and here.
At first it was pretty much the same story as before: we were looking for a batch of fifteen barrels from twenty five samples. We tasted the previous batch to get a fresh perspective on our target profile. The last batch was excellent: bright butterscotch and baking spices up front, fat caramel and then a lingering spicy rye finish just what we want in a great Buffalo Trace. We tasted the 25 samples and picked our favorites, those most on target for the profile we wanted.
We ended up with our favorite fifteen samples blended in a wine glass and ten other sample bottles the rejects.
Here’s where it gets interesting. We joked about blending the leftovers to see how they’d turn out in a blend of their own. The reject blend. So we did it.
Brett wasn’t in on the tasting, but he always wants his approval and his fingerprint on Binny’s Hand Picks, so we went and got him out of his dungeon of an office. He took a long time sniffing and tasting our blend, looking straight-faced and not saying anything. Then he did the same for the reject blend.
He told us he liked the reject blend more.
Seriously. What a jerk.
This is the sort of thing that instantly and completely undermines your confidence. We were all patting each other on the back, just to have Brett tell us he liked the exact opposite of our choice. Why? Because our version was heavy and sweet, totally fat caramel. He liked the reject blend because it showed more grainy structure and frame that you get from Buffalo Trace. He said he didn’t think the blend was perfect, and told us to pick our five favorite barrels from our blend and add to the reject blend, just to see…
So we did hesitantly at first. After all, if we liked the heavy-caramel version, wouldn’t our customers who have come to expect something extra from Binny’s picks, wouldn’t they like it too? We eventually found our favorite five and added them in. Then we all tasted the new blend – focused and powerful, and we all tasted the first blend – broad with caramel and brown sugar – and then back and forth, over and over.
What a tough choice. Two blends, side by side, very different, but both instantly recognizeable as Buffalo Trace. We could only pick one. So we held a vote.
Sorry if the punchline is obvious. The 25 samples we had to choose from were all excellent. The raw materials we put into our Hand Picked Selections are so good that it’s up to us to make stylistic choices. It’s not about sorting the wheat from the chaff or skimming off the cream, or any other metaphor I can mix in. It’s about shaping and honing a complex profile from a collection of very subtle flavors.
The Binny’s Champagne buyer has an allegory he uses whenever he’s asked which high-end Champagne is the best. He describes $3000 designer suits. It’s not about which $3k suit is the best, it’s about which one fits you the best. I’ll have to take his word. I have never worn a $3000 suit. But I think the comparison is still apt for our Buffalo Trace bottling. It’s not about finding which barrels are the best and the worst it’s about finding the ones that work together for the expression of Buffalo Trace we want to label with the title Binny’s.
So which one did we pick? Was it the gooey and voluptuous first blend? Was it the spicy and structured second blend?
Know what? I’m not telling. The bottling we did pick will get here in a month or two. Watch the Binny’s Blog and you won’t miss it. Buy a bottle – taste it, and you tell me.