“Two Stars is the same thing as Buffalo Trace.”
If you’ve ever set foot in a Total Wine & More store and interacted with one of their salespeople, you’ve likely heard those exact words. I know I have – often – and at various locations around the country.
Let’s get something out of the way. Two Stars is distilled, aged, and bottled by The Clear Springs Distilling Company out of Louisville, which Sazerac owns. Sazerac, if you’re unaware, owns Buffalo Trace. That is where “the same thing” ends. Two Stars is not the same thing as Buffalo Trace any more than George T. Stagg is the same as Buffalo Trace. I can say that with 100% confidence despite never trying it because this isn’t an opinion; it is a fact.
What is Two Stars? It is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottled at 86°, whereas Buffalo Trace is packaged at 90°. And that, my friends, is all the information you need to understand that these two are not the same Bourbon.
Two Stars carries no age statement; it sells for about $17.99 for a 750ml bottle and is “exclusive” to Total Wine & More except in states where exclusivity is not allowed. Even without an age statement, because it is straight Bourbon and lacks an age statement, we know it spent at least four years in oak.
Despite my discontent with Total Wine & More, I don’t allow that to affect my opinions on its Spirits Direct (Total Wine’s house brand) whiskeys. I take them as they come. Some are good; others are not. What I do know is that a lot of people make fun of Two Stars. Before today, I’d never tasted it. But, when there is a 50ml bottle available for $1.49, you #DrinkCurious.
I will get to my tasting notes in a moment, but first I’ll point out that throughout my years of whiskey reviewing, I’ve discovered some of what people joke about is unfounded. Remember, everyone’s palate is different, and there’s my #RespectTheBottomShelf hashtag for a reason. Now, let’s get to it!
Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Two Stars Bourbon presented as pale straw. It created a medium ring around the neck and released quick tears that fell back to the pool.
Nose: Corn and caramel were the first scents I picked out. Then, I smelled circus peanuts. There was a hint of toasted oak. When I drew the air into my mouth, I found more circus peanuts.
Palate: The mouthfeel was lightweight combined with some significant ethanol burn. Corn and vanilla greeted the front of my palate. Ethanol formed the middle. The back was oak and clove.
Finish: A too-long ethanol-heavy finish was mixed with oak tannins.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I let this whiskey sit about 20 minutes before I began my journey to ensure it had enough time to breathe. I’ve done many barrel picks of Buffalo Trace Bourbon in my life. I’ve never tasted anything this young, harsh, and unpleasant from that line. Two Stars is not the same as Buffalo Trace, even on Buffalo Trace’s worst day. Don’t let Total Wine’s staff tell you it is; if they do, you let them know Whiskeyfellow said this Bourbon is a Bust. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.