Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Elmer T Lee is one of the most famed legends of the bourbon industry.
Here’s our take on his eponymous bottle — from the taste, aroma, and price — so you can decide if you should try it yourself.
About Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon
The Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon is a perfectly balanced and rich whiskey with aromatic and delicate flavors. The label was named after Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee of Buffalo Trace, pioneer of the single barrel expression.
Despite him no longer overseeing this label, the company has ensured that the bourbon would be bottled to the taste and standards of Elmer T. Lee himself.
The barrels chosen for the label are personally hand-selected and manually tasted before they are sold to the public.
History & Origin
If you wonder who Elmer T. Lee is, you have him to thank for the single barrel offering. He worked as a Master Distiller for 36 years (one of Buffalo Trace’s longest-serving Master Distillers) before retiring in 1985.
The first single-barrel bourbon sold to the public was Blanton’s, and best believe that it was the product of his blood, sweat, and tears.
He eventually passed in 2013 at the age of 93 after following a short illness. He was eventually honored by Buffalo Trace with his namesake single-barrel bourbon. 
How It’s Made
The whiskey is produced at the scenic Buffalo Trace Distillery. As a single barrel, it’s not uncommon for the bottles to vary in flavor, depending on which barrel they were pulled from. The final spirit has a 45 percent ABV, or 90 proof.
According to the company, this whiskey embodies what he would’ve picked himself according to his standards.
The whiskey is made with a high-rye mash bill they call Mash #2.
Although the company did not specifically disclose the exact components of the mash bill, it presumably uses anywhere from 12 to 15 percent rye.
Other Buffalo Trace bourbons that use the same mash bill include Rock Hill Farms, Blanton’s, and Hancock’s Reserve.
This whiskey carries no age statement. It is only sold to the public when the barrels are at their peak.
Ownership & Distillery
Elmer T. Lee is one of Buffalo Trace’s single-barrel bourbons produced in Frankfort, Kentucky. The Sazerac Company owns it.
- Palate – The whiskey is representative of Master Distiller’s vision: fine and delicate, with a lot of finesse. Light oak, strawberry, cocoa, and rye spice are just some flavor notes you can expect on the palate.
- Nose – The spirit has a sophisticated aroma, rife with scents of light honey, cinnamon, clove, and soft oak. This is a very welcoming drink for beginners and bourbon drinkers alike.
- Color – The spirit has a transparent rust color and a medium body.
- Finish – This has an okay medium-length finish, with traditional caramel and vanilla notes.
Common Price of Elmer T. Lee Bourbon
|Type||Size||Alcohol By Volume||Average Price (Drizly)|
|Elmer T. Lee Bourbon Single Barrel||750ml||45%||from $175|
Compared to Other Single Barrel Bourbons
Old Forester Single Barrel
Old Forester Single Barrel used to have 90 proof, but they have reinvented the product and are now selling it at 100 proof. This is a pretty bold whiskey with traditional Old Forester notes. It has a 65 percent ABV.
Old Forester Single Barrel costs around $90, which is about half the pricing of Lee’s.
Blanton’s Single Barrel
Blanton’s Single Barrel uses the same #2 mash bill as Elmer T. Lee, which is why you’ll probably notice a few similarities here and there.
It has the same floral and aromatic bouquet, which gives way to honey and fruit-forward profile. A touch of leather and charred oak balances out the sweetness of the whiskey.
Blanton’s costs around $130.
Evan Williams Single Barrel
The Evan Williams Single Barrel is aged for eight years and sold at 86.6 proof, making it the lowest proof among the three. It has sweet vanilla and caramel flavor notes, rounded with a peppery kick.
Evan Williams Single Barrel costs around $35.
Is Elmer T. Lee bourbon a sour mash?
Yes, Elmer T. Lee bourbon is a sour mash. You will often find that whiskey companies use the still-fermenting mash from an old batch to create a new batch of whiskey to ensure consistency in flavors.
Is Elmer T. Lee bourbon limited-edition?
No. The flagship Elmer T. Lee isn’t a limited edition bottle. However, Buffalo Trace did release a limited edition bottle in 2019 to commemorate what would have been the late Master Distiller’s 100th birthday.
The 100-Year Tribute has proof of 100 instead of the regular 90, and proceeds will go to the Frankfort VFW Post 4075.
Elmer T. Lee undoubtedly helped shape and redefine the bourbon industry to what it is today, which is why he is more than deserving of this highly sought-after whiskey.
We think the late Master Distiller would’ve been proud to call this whiskey his own, with its delicate bouquet and an even more dainty flavor profile.
The company did a great job crafting this spirit and remaining faithful to the man who knows how great bourbon should taste.
Did you agree with our sentiments? Let us know your thoughts by sounding off below.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.