Classification: Blended Whiskey
Company: Sazerac Company, Inc.
Distillery: Undisclosed Sazerac distilleries
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Straight whiskey component[s] in the blend aged at least 4 years per TTB regulations)
Color: Light Gold
MSRP: $40 / 750mL (2024)
Traveller Whiskey was first released in January, 2024 and is an ongoing release. It’s a collaboration between Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and musician Chris Stapleton. Wheatley eloquently summarizes the collaboration: “When making art – and we really do think that both Chris’ music and the whiskey we make at Buffalo Trace is art – you experiment, test, adjust, and don’t give up until you’ve got it right. That’s why we experimented with more than 50 blends before agreeing that Blend No. 40 would be it for Traveller."
Traveller Whiskey is a blended whiskey, which by legal definition is “Whisky produced by blending not less than 20% on a proof gallon basis (excluding alcohol derived from added harmless coloring, flavoring or blending materials) straight whisky or a blend of straight whiskies and, separately or in combination, whisky of any type or neutral spirits.” However, Sazerac has confirmed that the current blend contains 0% grain neutral spirits. While the specific Sazerac-owned distilleries that the components within this blended whiskey originate from are not readily disclosed, Sazerac has confirmed it is a completely unique combination of whiskeys hand selected from multiple distilleries. It is also the first celebrity collaboration whiskey from Buffalo Trace, though Wheatley and Stapleton are each noted on the label as “Co-Founder” on the label. The whiskey is widely distributed and is expected to be readily available.
The whiskey is light on the nose. There’s some fruity warmth reminiscent of green apple or grape, along with a hint of sweetness. There isn’t any individual scent that stands out, but the overall composition is a bit unfamiliar, not falling into typical bourbon, rye, or even light whiskey territory. It’s very light, and while not off-putting in any way, it’s also not memorable and just simply lacks presence.
The palate breathes some life into the whiskey, most noticeably due to its light yet smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel, which is sure to find fans. Light oak, maple sugar candy, a touch of sweet corn, along with hints of caramel and buttercream, make for a dessert-like synergy of flavors. Sweet tooths will be put to the test, as the level of sweetness will be fun for some and over the top for others.
A bit of spice finally develops on the finish, with candied fruit sweetness transitioning quickly to savory leather. It drops off fairly quickly from there, leaving behind a mild spice note. Like the start, it’s a simple, short ending.
Traveller Whiskey may seem simple on the surface, but it’s anything but. It’s the first celebrity-collaboration whiskey Buffalo Trace has attached its name to, it’s a blended whiskey, and Wheatly and Stapleton are identified on the bottle as Co-Founders.
First and foremost, the flavor profile is unfamiliar, arguably sweet to a fault, but will likely satisfy casual, mainstream whiskey drinkers. It’s mild enough for the masses to sip, while it is light it does offer a degree of creaminess that allows it to take a cube fairly well, and it even holds up well in a cocktail. While its flavor profile may be tuned more into the mainstream drinker than the enthusiast, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this blended whiskey is unique in a number of ways.
If Sazerac wanted to appeal to more diehard whiskey drinkers with this, they would have been more forthcoming about what makes up the blend. What makes up the blend is important with this release because unlike most “whiskeys” being released nowadays, it is technically classified as a "blended whiskey" which hearkens back to earlier times when blended whiskeys were often known to be sub-par products. We know Traveller Whiskey originates from multiple Sazerac distilleries which makes it unique by that measure, though we do not know exactly what those components are. And while the blended whiskey classification does allow for the inclusion of grain neutral spirits, Sazerac has confirmed with us that the blend contains 0% grain neutral spirits. With that in mind, it's a curious classification choice as no grain neutral spirits are actually used. Would it qualify to be classified as whiskey or a blend of straight whiskeys? Or does the blended whiskey classification used to allow the brand some wiggle room to change the blend components in the future?
Traveller Whiskey’s label identifies Wheatley and Stapleton as Co-Founders, which is an interesting notation. Wheatley has certainly earned an immense amount of respect, being the distiller behind Buffalo Trace’s line of highly respected products which includes everything from Buffalo Trace Bourbon, to Blanton’s, to Weller, and to the coveted Pappy Van Winkle lineup. Stapleton’s involvement does pose some questions, as he has had a fairly dicey relationship with alcohol that has drawn media attention recently, most notably with respect to excessive drinking issues he has disclosed. In a recent interview he did clarify this, specifically alluding to getting a grip on excessive drinking while not attempting to achieve 100% sobriety, along with stating “the first room you walk in at my house, there’s probably 200 bottles of bourbon there.” According to Sazerac, both “both [Stapleton] and [Wheatley] are noted as co-founders given their heavy involvement in every aspect of the brand’s creation, from concept to whiskey selection and label development.”
Bourbon and American whiskey releases have gotten a bit oversaturated in the $60-$90 range nowadays. Comparing one to the next, the value is often fair, but the reality is there are a lot of whiskeys in that range vying for attention. On the other hand, the sub-$50 category has been fairly stagnant for a while when it comes to the introduction of new, widespread, and readily available options. There are a lot of great existing whiskeys in that price range, from Buffalo Trace itself to Wild Turkey 101, Knob Creek, and Four Roses Small Batch. But new options rarely emerge, especially from the big Kentucky players.
To that end, it’s a smart play to enter this price point within the market if the financials justify it, and it’s probably not a bad idea to tie in a celebrity if your goal is to attract a new audience. Traditionalists often scoff at celebrity whiskeys, as it’s hard to tell if they’re simply marketing angles or are driven specifically by the celebrity’s love for the spirit. Brands like Brother’s Bond, Heaven’s Door, and American Highway Reserve really feel like it is about a love for whiskey, while others veer the opposite way. According to Sazerac, Stapleton has been heavily involved with the creation of this whiskey, and now that’s it’s in the market we will likely see more firsthand how his involvement unfolds.
Being a blended whiskey makes for a tough comparison, as there are not many others in the market and what is there is very different, though Five Trail Whiskey from Coor’s (yes the beer company, $60) and Suntory World Whiskey AO ($55) come to mind. Traveller Whiskey bests these when it comes to price point, but it’s not really the right fight. Marketed as simply “whiskey” and priced at $40, it has to compete with others in that realm even if it is technically a blended whiskey. Thankfully it isn’t like those terrible blended whiskeys of the past, instead offering redeeming qualities that will likely appeal to a large segment of consumers. On the other hand, for those looking for something more complex and not bored by more of the same, staples in that range offer more complexity and often for a lower price point and with little detail to go by for this blended whiskey.
The first celebrity-themed whiskey associated with Buffalo Trace, Traveller Whiskey offers a unique flavor profile that will appeal to the masses, but leaves more discerning consumers wondering what actually makes up the blend.
Traveller Whiskey is a sweet, simple sip. It has a lot to like in one realm, and will appeal to a wide audience with its creamy mouthfeel and versatility. For traditionalists, it will probably raise more eyebrows for the fact that it’s a celebrity whiskey rather than the fact that it’s classified as a blended whiskey. Frankly, if you do take issue with this release, the blended whiskey aspect is the issue to focus on. I don’t mind celebrities attaching their name to whiskey if real passion for whiskey is involved, and ultimately the market will do the talking. But what is in the blend, at least from a high level, is worth paying attention to.
Coming from Sazerac Company, Inc. and being attached to Buffalo Trace gives Traveller Whiskey immediate credibility, not to mention widespread distribution and built-in marketing momentum. It’s targeted towards a wide audience, and I think that same wide audience will accept it with open arms. It hits the right drinkability-versatility mark, which can only be attributed to Wheatley’s skillset.
On the other hand, it’s not a complex sipper, and very little is shared about this whiskey, including what the blend is composed of and whether or not any of the whiskey within the blend was even distilled at Buffalo Trace. Undoubtedly, this will raise questions among the small subset of whiskey drinkers who dig deeper than the label. Truthfully Traveller Whiskey probably isn’t intended for today’s typical bourbon enthusiast, but it will probably satisfy more casual consumers looking for something different within the lower price range. People looking for something more complex and not in need of the newest thing will be content sipping Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Wild Turkey 101, or Four Roses Small Batch to name just a few lower cost, readily-available options. For those open to something new and different, Traveller Whiskey does have a not-so-familiar flavor profile, so if you are curious you will have to simply try it for yourself.