The Buffalo's Graveyard

A trace of Bourbon history
By Charles Montanaro
Bourbon has followed me throughout my career, I still remember falling in love with the liquid the first time I had a sumptuous drink with bourbon, ginger ale, bitters and a long twisted strip of lemon also known as 'The Horse's Neck.' Working with Bourbon on a daily basis, I became inspired by the oldest distillery continuously operating in the United States, Buffalo Trace, formerly known as the George T Stagg distillery.

I've always been fascinated by the array of different products the distillery can produce, their many innovative and award winning expressions are a testament to their craftsmanship.

Exploring three Bourbons produced at Buffalo Trace and their mash bills from the buffalo crossing - high rye, wheat and corn - we discover the history and particularities of each.

When I think Bourbon and especially Kentucky, the first thing that springs to mind is the staple cocktail of the Derby season introduced to the event in 1938, the mint julep. This simple and refreshing tipple of Bourbon, sugar and mint is one of those, where albeit its low amount of ingredients, that needs to be executed and balanced to perfection. Blanton's single barrel, named after the distillery's early leaders A. B. Blanton is an ideal Bourbon to use in mint juleps for its smoothness. The spiciness, vanillin and orange notes shine through the sweetness and mint to reveal the quality of this high rye mash bill.

Moving on, we look at Eagle Rare 10, originally created by Seagrams in 1970, this Bourbon was brought to the market to compete with Wild Turkey and began its life as a 101 per cent proof Bourbon. In 1989, Sazerac decided to buy the brand and transform it from the ground up, moving production to Buffalo Trace and changing it to the single barrel product that we all know. The Bird of Prey is a simple yet complex cocktail which is made from grapefruit and vanilla cordial, adding bitterness and sweetness to the soft tones of dark raisins and plum, the oils from the peels in the cordial adding another depth to the mouth-feel. To season this cocktail, we add a touch of angostura bitters to finish and round it off creating a rash, bold libation revealing an interesting gustatory experience.

Last but not least, we look at W.L. Weller 107 Antique, one of the best wheated Bourbons currently on the market and also one of the closest match to an affordable Pappy Van Winkle substitute. Named after Mr. Weller, the first distiller to allegedly release the staple sweet and mellow wheat Bourbon in 1849. This rich, sweet oaky liquid is perfect mixed with soft flavours due to its mellow notes. I paired it with a gently roasted pineapple cordial and fino sherry to bring out earthy notes and a healthy measure of lemon juice to add high notes to the libation and balance out the sweetness inherent to the bourbon and cordial. Thus was born Weller Street, a sweet and sour libation with a deep caramel and vanilla finish with a strong alcoholic punch which no Bourbon lover would shy away from.

The Mint Julep


  • 60ml Blanton’s single barrel

  • 10ml sugar syrup (2:1)

  • 6 – 7 sprigs of mint

Take three mint sprigs and rub them against the inside of a julep tin to release all mint essences. This will bring flavour and aroma while avoiding the bitterness which crushed mint can create.
Add half the julep tin full of crushed ice, pour in the bourbon, churn with a spoon for 20 seconds and top up with crushed ice to the brim. Slowly lace the drink with the sugar syrup and let it seep through the ice, melting and combining itself to the cocktail.
Place four mint sprigs on the rim of the tin and cover with a julep strainer.
Enjoy the libation by sipping through the julep tin.

The Bird of Prey


  • 50ml Eagle Rare 10 Years Old

  • 40ml grapefruit and vanilla cordial

  • 3 dashes angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake until chilled, double strain in a rocks glass over cubed ice.

Grapefruit and vanilla cordial

Peel three pink grapefruits, reserve the fruit for juicing. Add all peels to a jar with 250g of sugar and one vanilla pod with its seeds scraped out. Close jar and let it rest for two hours or until the sugar has absorbed all the essences in the peels. Add the juice of the three pink grapefruits (about 300ml), a teaspoon of citric acid and combine. Strain out all bits and keep in fridge for up to two weeks.

Weller Street


  • 40ml W. L. Weller Antique 107 proof

  • 15ml Tio Pepe fino sherry

  • 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 15ml roasted pineapple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake until chilled, double strain in a coupette and garnish with a roasted pineapple.

Roasted pineapple syrup

Take one pineapple, quarter it and then slice. Add pineapple to a pan and roast in oven at 200C for 20 minutes. Once cooked, add pineapples to a pan and cover with 500g of sugar to 250g of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Strain and bottle, keep in fridge for a maximum of one week.