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Blanton’s Single Barrel Takara Red Bourbon Review 

Blanton’s Single Barrel Takara Red Bourbon Review 

The following review is the second in a series of three exploring the Takara versions of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. If you’d like to read them chronologically, here are links to Takara Black and Takara Gold.

Picking up where I left off with my review of Blanton’s Takara Black, I’ll continue more of the story while exploring this bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Takara Red Bourbon. Based on the picture you see before you, it might be easy to confuse a bottle of Takara Red with one of the standard bottles that are found domestically.

As you might expect, Blanton’s Takara Red was the first of its kind to carry the Takara designation. While it never appeared on the box or the label, there were certain characteristics that separated it from a standard bottle of Blanton’s.

For starters, Takara Red didn’t make its first appearance until 1990. This was a full 6 years after the inaugural release of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. And if you read the history of how the Takara Shuzo Ltd first came to own the Blanton’s name and control its overseas distribution, then 1990 means that Takara was calling the shots a couple years earlier before they supposedly purchased the Age International Distillery. If that was the case, then they had much more control over a longer period of time than most writers acknowledge. History is confusing sometimes.

Visual differences between Takara Red and domestic Blanton’s

While Blanton’s Takara Black has no US equivalent, Takara Red does. There are many similarities to the standard, 93 proof version of Blanton’s released in the United States. But there are some key differences you can spot between the two. This may help you next time you’re at a bar or a friend’s house looking for a pour and spot this bottle. So let’s take a look.

Box – One of the most distinctive clues that you’re looking at a bottle of Takara Red would be the red box that is different in every way from the domestic version. Even the material the box is made out of seems different. The Takara box has what I would describe as a “woven texture” underneath its red color.

Bag – A bag that domestic Blanton’s comes in is brown in color and has the words “Blanton’s” across the front. The Takara version is a deep maroon color with no “Blanton’s” wording embroidered on it.

Necktag – the domestic version has a black elastic string that attaches a small Blanton’s tag. The Takara version has a much larger tag that is a essentially a multi-page pamphlet retelling much of the same information as the outside of the box.

Wax – Takara Red wax is gold in color (like Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel) while the domestic version is a very dark brown (almost black)

Left: Domestic Blanton’s, Right: Takara Red Blanton’s

Label – the Takara Red label has a different color for the handwritten portions and the printed portions of the label. Both are in a light brown color compared to the black color of standard Blanton’s. The paper neck label on the Takara Red bottle has Japanese script underneath the words “Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.” The script’s Japanese characters spell out the word “Whiskey.” One interesting similarity is that Takara Red is bottled in a 750ml bottle rather than a 700ml version like a lot of the export versions of Blanton’s out there.

What makes the bourbon in Takara Red different?

Rumors abound about Takara Red (and Black and Gold) releases being aged for two years longer than their domestic counterparts. But those rumors are fiercely debated among enthusiast circles. I personally view the whole commotion as one side who is basing their information on decades-old hearsay and the other side who has much more current knowledge on the current state of Blanton’s. They know there is no such thing as “older barrels” resting inside of Warehouse H anymore. Blanton’s is no exception.

While it is probably true that Takara still wants their own bottles to be older than the run-of-the-mill domestic bottles of Blanton’s, they can’t avoid the squeeze of a high demand product and falling age statements. Reviews of modern-day bottles of Takara Black, Red and Gold all seem to point to a feeling of the bourbon being more average than bottles from the past.

This is why I’ve chosen to purchase a bottle of modern Takara Red for this review. I have no doubt that bottles from the 90’s and 00’s would be superior in taste, but I wanted to see if the modern stuff has a more mature or richer flavor compared to standard Blanton’s. I’ll be looking for something that stands out and shows me it has more age. Did I find what I was looking for? Follow along as I dive in. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose has a pleasant mix of caramel, honey and cherry cola. I can also smell a hint of rye spice; maybe coming from the supposed “high-rye” mash bill used for Blanton’s. Other scents that I find as I dig deeper include chocolate and plum. Not too much gives away its age (there is a lack of oak), but maybe that is telling that the age isn’t as high as we’re led to believe.

Palate: Initial flavors of caramel, cherries and baking spices are some of the most dominant flavors I found.  Actually, scratch that, there is a lot more baking spice than I’m giving this one credit for (cinnamon, allspice). The “cherry cola” scent from the nose morphs into Dr. Pepper. Yes, I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I feel like it’s a big more varied than a straightforward cola.

Unlike the nose, tannins do show up on my tongue. I get a bit of oak and leather throughout. Not bad! But for those two notes – which would normally denote some age to the liquid – there is a strange youthful flavor that I can’t look past. It’s not much, but it’s noticeable enough to make me pause. The score takes a hit for that reason.

Finish: The finish loses most of the fruit notes from the palate but retains a good amount of the baking spices, oak and (burnt) caramel. It’s pleasant and lasts for a moderate amount of time.

Score: 7.3/10

The first thing I want to highlight is that I did not look back at my previous Blanton’s (the domestic kind) review until after this review was written and scored. I was shocked to find that the score I gave it – which is almost entirely based on my enjoyment with the bottle – was exactly the same. This shows me that my enjoyment was the same for a bottle that supposedly had two extra years of age.

Additionally, I didn’t really find anything that would show me it’s a more mature bourbon compared to our domestic Blanton’s version. If anything, one of the only differences was more rye traits showing up in the Takara version.

Final Thoughts

Honestly I was expecting so much more. Everything about this bottle seemed to be the same as a regular Blanton’s. At one point when the bottle was 1/3 of the way gone, I felt like I was getting a little bit extra oak from my pours, but, but not a large amount. And if this bottle needs that long to open up, then I feel like it’s not worth it.

I don’t think my review will persuade anyone who is set on building a collection of Blanton’s to not get this bottle. The different label, box and bag are different and fun to show off. But for the enthusiast who believes there is something more inside of the bottle, my findings say there’s not. And even if that little extra bit of oak turned out to be an extra year in the barrel, it still doesn’t taste like a $300 bottle. Your best bet might just be to buy a vintage Blanton’s from the early 90s and call it a day.

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