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Buffalo Trace Distillery Plays with Fire

I'm always fascinated with the things being done by Buffalo Trace Distillery. They're constantly experimenting, trying to find new ways to make fine bourbon. A lot of them don't work, but that's just part of the fun. Here's their latest, which sounds like it produced some good results.

Just in time for colder weather, Buffalo Trace Distillery offers a solution to your winter chills. The latest Experimental Collection bourbons both survived the heat. The Hot Box Toasted Barrel Bourbon Whiskey and #7 Heavy Char Barrel Bourbon Whiskey are the two latest offerings from the Kentucky distillery.

Both of these experiments study the effects of extreme heat on oak barrels and the flavor of the bourbon inside.

The Hot Box Toasted Barrel Bourbon involved placing the barrel staves into a “Hot Box” at 133 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the staves were steamed before being assembled into a barrel. The goal was to drive the flavors deep into the wood.  Next the barrels were filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #2 and left to age for 16 years and 8 months.  The resulting bourbon is a well-balanced whiskey with fruity notes complimented by a caramel and buttery taste. 

The #7 Heavy Char Barrel Bourbon Whiskey experiment used barrels which were charred for 3.5 minutes, as opposed to the normal 55 second char used by Buffalo Trace typically.  The barrels were then filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #2 and left to age for 15 years and 9 months.  The end result is a bourbon with an oaky aroma followed by a body that is heavy and complex. A smoky and robust flavor, with fantastic woody notes and hints of vanilla, fruit and tannin.  It is dry and balanced.  

“Toying with barrels is fun and interesting. It’s quite dramatic to see how something as simple as an extra heavy barrel char can influence the taste of bourbon,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “Both of these experiments yielded very interesting and balanced flavor profiles that I think most people will enjoy tasting.” 

These “hot” barrels are part of the more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of these barrels has unique characteristics that differentiate it from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, type of wood and barrel toasts. In order to further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program, an entire micro distillery, named The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. “OFC” Micro Distillery, complete with cookers, fermenting tanks, and a state-of-the-art micro still has been constructed within Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The Experimental Collection will be packaged in 375ml bottles. Each label will include all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys will retail for approximately $46.35 each. These rare experimental bottles should be available in late January or early February. For more information on the Experimental Collection or the other products of Buffalo Trace Distillery, please contact Kris Comstock at kcomstock@buffalotrace.com.

Hot Box Barrel Toast & Heavy Char #7

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Whiskey

Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Single Oak Project

BtdBuffalo Trace Distillery, one of the world's most prestigious producer of whiskeys, recently announced the fourth round of their Single Oak Project bourbon. This ongoing experiment tests how a set of different factors affects the development of whiskey.

The project started in 1999 when Buffalo Trace selected 96 oak trees, which were then crafted into 192 different barrels, each made from the same section of the same tree. Some of the barrels were thicker than others, some were aged more, and they were charred to two different levels. The distillery filled each of the barrels with either wheat or rye recipe bourbon, at one of two proofs, and aged the barrels on different floors of two separate warehouses.

In this way, they created 192 slightly different whiskeys, each with at least one factor different from all the rest. This allowed the distillery to track how the various factors affected the flavor of the resulting bourbon. Barrels

Buffalo Trace is now releasing the whiskeys in batches of four and asking consumers to vote on them. (This whiskey ain't cheap, as you'd imagine. But it's not ridiculously expensive — around $46 for a 375ml bottle.) At the end of the project, they'll select the winner and bottle it under the Single Oak Project label.

The first three rounds of whiskeys were released last year, and they received some very good notices.

Now comes the bad news: I haven't tasted any of these bourbons! The quantities are very limited, not surprisingly, and I haven't been able to find any of them. The state-run liquor stores in Virginia carry a decent selection of bourbon, but they're not strong on the exotic stuff like this.

If anyone has tried these whiskeys, please let us know.

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