Elmer T Lee 1919 – 2013

ELMER T LEE 1919 – 2013

SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 46/93

AGE: 8-9 years

Born in 1919 on a farm north of Frankfort, Kentucky, Elmer T. Lee grew up to become one of the founding fathers of the current bourbon renaissance – and the namesake of one of its most-sought-after bourbons. 

After studying engineering at the University of Kentucky and serving in a bomber crew during World War II, he went to work at what was then the George T. Stagg distillery in 1949. He worked his way up to become distillery manager, just in time to see the bottom fall out of the industry. Along with the likes of Booker Noe and Jimmy Russell, Lee was one of the few optimists who insisted, against much evidence, that bourbon would bounce back.

In 1984, the distillery owners asked him to create a whiskey to stand alongside Scotch single malts. His response was Blanton’s, widely recognized as the first single-barrel bourbon. It took a while to catch on, but its eventual popularity helped open the door to a wave of new American whiskey fans.

Lee retired in 1985, but continued to come into the distillery as an emeritus manager, even after new owners changed its name to Buffalo Trace. In his honor, in 1986 the distillery created a single-barrel whiskey in his honor, drawn from similar sources as Blanton’s and using the same mashbill.

For years, Elmer T. Lee bourbon was a quiet fan favorite, an older and richer version of Blanton’s. Buffalo Trace never made much of it, but after Lee’s death in 2013, whiskey fans began to seek it out. The whiskey’s acclaim grew further when, in 2014, the distillery released a commemorative bottle, at a higher proof and in even smaller quantities than usual. All profits went to benefit a Frankfort post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in which Lee was active up until his death.

Release: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Sour Mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 1919-2013 Commemorative Edition

Spirit: Bourbon

Producer: Buffalo Trace

Misc.: The whiskey is bottled at 93 proof because Lee was 93 years old when he died. The standard Elmer T. Lee bottle is 90 proof.

Collectors’ tips: This is one of two special bottlings of Elmer T. Lee to honor its namesake. The other came out in 2019, on the centennial of his birthday, and is likewise a much-sought-after collectible. It was bottled at 100 proof.

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