Review: Buffalo Trace And Chris Stapleton's New Traveller Whiskey Hits The Right Notes

Buffalo Trace Traveller Whiskey bottles
Buffalo Trace Traveller Whiskey bottles - Sara Kay/Tasting Table
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There are two categories of whiskey drinkers — those who know exactly what they want and will go straight for it regardless of price point, and those whose preferences aren't as rigid and can be easily swayed by a nice label. Buffalo Trace has managed to tap into both categories, repeatedly making a name for itself with award-winning whiskeys while having an ornery-but-charming-looking buffalo on their eye-catching label.

Continuing this aim to produce whiskey for everyone, from the casual drinker to the discerning enthusiast, Buffalo Trace distillery recently launched its new Traveller Whiskey in collaboration with Chris Stapleton, the Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and musician.

A premium blended whiskey bottled at 90 proof, Traveller Whiskey is the joint creation of Stapleton and Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace's master distiller. Innumerable hours of testing and tasting went into Traveller Whiskey, as the duo experimented with more than 50 different blends before agreeing on the final product, now known as Blend No. 40. Tasting Table had a chance to speak with Wheatley and try this new whiskey to see if it stands up to the rest of the Buffalo Trace portfolio. As a journalist in the food and beverage industry for 14 years, I have taste-tested and reviewed dozens of bourbons and whiskies, and we relied on this experience for our review. Here's what we thought.

This review is based on firsthand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

What Is Traveller Whiskey?

Traveller Whiskey next to photo
Traveller Whiskey next to photo - Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace has been around longer than you might think, as the distillery's storied history dates back to 1858. It survived a great fire in 1882, the Prohibition era, and a 1937 flood, all before the launch of Blanton's — the world's first single-barrel bourbon — in 1984, and the facility's rechristening as Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1999. One year later, Buffalo Trace became the first American distillery to win the international "Distillery of the Year" award conferred by Whisky Advocate.

The distillery produces a variety of whiskies that continue to delight tipplers the world over, and to maintain Buffalo Trace's pace of delivering top-quality spirits, Traveller has arrived just in time. As the worldwide spirits market is expected to grow to over $191 billion by 2028, according to the Spirits Global Market Report 2024, Buffalo Trace is keeping up with consumer demand for premium bourbon made with traditional craftsmanship.

While Traveller Whiskey was only released in early 2024, the relationship between Chris Stapleton and the Buffalo Trace Distillery goes further back. Born in Lexington, Kentucky — not far from the distillery in Frankfort — Stapleton was introduced to E.H. Taylor, one of Buffalo Trace's other whiskey varieties, while recording his "Traveller" album. Traveller Whiskey is as unique as the collaboration itself, as it's made with a blend of whiskeys from varied distilleries belonging to the Sazerac Company, which owns Buffalo Trace.

Traveller Whiskey Price And Availability

Traveller Whiskey bottle on table
Traveller Whiskey bottle on table - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

With whiskey, price and quality tend to go hand in hand. This correlation should come as no surprise, as the time that goes into distilling a top-shelf whiskey takes years — decades, even — and that effort is translated into the liquid in the barrel and the price tag on the bottle.

That said, for a distinguished distillery, the price point of Buffalo Trace whiskies runs the gamut. On one end, you have Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 whiskey, which can be purchased for below $20 for a 375 milliliter bottle. Higher up the ladder is E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof bourbon, costing at least $500 ... and then there's the ultra-limited Eagle Rare 25 at $10,000. On the highest end of the spectrum — and in this case, we mean the highest — a first-release 2019 bottle of Double Eagle Very Rare 20-year-old bourbon can be yours for a whopping $20,000.

For a bottle of whiskey made in collaboration with a 10-time Grammy-award winner, Traveller's manufacturer-suggested $39.99 price is both a surprise and a delight. Tapping into the "whiskey for everyone" mindset from Harlen Wheatley and Chris Stapleton, a bottle of premium blended whiskey like this could go at a higher price point with nobody questioning it. However, we are big fans of this release, settling in at an affordable price that lives up to the Traveller mantra of "easy to drink, hard not to love." Traveller is now available at U.S. retailers, bars, and restaurants.

Buffalo Trace Traveller Whiskey Tasting Notes

Traveller and glass of whiskey
Traveller and glass of whiskey - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

Whiskey tasting is a personal journey. No two people have the same taste buds or palate, but we feel confident that Traveller Whiskey is a liquor for the masses. Before taking a sip, gently inhale the liquid in the glass — hold the glass a few inches from your nose and inhale, then bring it closer and inhale again. The whiskey is sweet and slightly floral on the nose, with chocolatey and sweet caramel notes. The first sip is smooth with a hint of spice; notes of burnt oak, caramel, and butterscotch linger for awhile before a pleasantly buttery finish with the slightest hint of smoke. We enjoyed drinking this neat, but it was equally delicious with a splash of water to open up the flavors.

As you sip on your Traveller Whiskey or enjoy it in a cocktail, pay attention to the bottle it comes in, too. Look through the juice, and you'll see each bottle has a Kentucky map inside. Right in the middle, marked with a star, is the city of Lexington, where Stapleton is from.

How To Drink Traveller Whiskey

old fashioned cocktail on table
old fashioned cocktail on table - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

How to "properly" enjoy whiskey is a fiery topic, entirely open to interpretation, depending on how much you like to imbibe. Still, we're here to set the record straight regarding Traveller Whiskey. The goal of Harlen Wheatley and Chris Stapleton was to make this a whiskey for all, and when it comes to how to get the best out of it, we think it really does cover all the bases. "The key word for us is approachable, we didn't want to overpower people with a super strong drink," Wheatley told Tasting Table. "What we always say is to be able to taste it appropriately and appreciate it is to taste it neatly," he said of first trying the new blended whiskey.

For the whiskey drinker who finds blasphemy in drinking whiskey with anything more than the glass it's poured in, Traveller is smooth and easy to sip all on its own. For those who may need it toned down a smidge, a splash of water or an ice cube opens the whiskey up and makes the sweet, spicy, oaky notes really shine.

And for those of us who are full-throated whiskey cocktail enthusiasts, Traveller is an excellent addition to some of our favorite classics. Try it in a classic Manhattan as a swap-in for rye, or in a smooth old fashioned where the nutty, sweet flavors of the whiskey will play nicely with the sugar and bitters in the glass.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Vs. Traveller Whiskey

Traveller Whiskey and whiskey sour
Traveller Whiskey and whiskey sour - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

Adding Traveller Whiskey to the Buffalo Trace portfolio, which doesn't typically highlight blended whiskies, is a big step for the historic distillery. But after collaborating with someone like Chris Stapleton and creating a product that speaks to his love for whiskey and Buffalo Trace's reputation for quality, it's clear that this is an addition being welcomed with open arms. Fans of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, which is also noted for its sweetly spicy taste and smooth finish, will likely find Traveller to be a pleasant companion.

For Harlen Wheatley, Traveller speaks to the masses while adding to the strong reputation of Buffalo Trace. "It's a new thing for us ... we wanted something that we could offer the world," he said. "We haven't done too much celebrity work, so for us, it was an exciting new project."

In the heavily saturated market of celebrity spirits, Traveller is doing its best to stand out not just through the liquid in the bottle but also through the story it's telling. And according to Wheatley, unlike many celebrity-backed spirits, Stapleton has been actively involved in the production process, from tasting the different blends that finally led to Blend No. 40, to selecting the colors and fonts on the bottle, to even choosing the cork.

Is Traveller Whiskey Worth It?

pair of Traveller Whiskey bottles
pair of Traveller Whiskey bottles - Sara Kay/Tasting Table

Whiskey drinkers take their whiskey very seriously, and they should. There are some truly fantastic whiskeys on the market today, and there are some that slap a pretty logo and a celebrity name on the bottle for clout, but when it comes to the liquid inside, there's not much to get excited about. Traveller Whiskey is not only a welcome addition to the whiskey market for the aficionado, it's an approachable spirit that can be easily enjoyed by just about anyone looking for a new whiskey to love.

The whiskey in the bottle is versatile and can be easily enjoyed neat, with an ice cube, or in a classic cocktail — but it's also a whiskey that tells a story, which manages to add to the enjoyment, as well. Buffalo Trace has an impressive track record with no real signs of slowing down, so if you believe in the juice they've produced so far, Traveller will be a welcome addition to your repertoire.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.