Buffalo Trace is a monster distillery, with 150,000 barrels of whiskey in inventory at any given time. 1,500 of those are “experimental” — wild stabs at genius from whomever’s manning the still that day — and every now and again Buffalo Trace sifts through the ricks to see what’s out there. Sometimes they even sell it.
With this round, Buffalo found a few dozen barrels of ancient whiskey — 17 to 21 years old — with unknown provenance, hailing from its acquisition of the Old Charter brand. As Bourbon brand manager Kris Comstock notes, of the barrels, “one was empty, one tasted horrible, and the others tasted very nice.” They bottled the others as three (very) old Bourbons and, considering their age, are selling them for a song. We tried all three.
Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1989 Barrels, Rediscovered - 21 years old. Harsh and rough. Quite bitter on the palate, with notes of sawdust, pinecones, and shelled nuts. Mostly it’s proof that yes, there is such a thing as a whiskey that’s too old. Even water doesn’t help the 1989 much. This is a Bourbon that is tired and well past its prime. C
Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1991 Barrels, Rediscovered - 19 years old. Quite an improvement over the 1989, with bracing sweetness and huge notes of toffee, caramel, and lots of spice — orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more — in the finish. Shockingly balanced and a real revelation in comparison to the dead ’89. Gorgeous. I’d drink this any day. A
Buffalo Trace 2011 Experimental Collection 1993 Barrels, Rediscovered - 17 years and 7 months old. A hot burner, with a rye kick to it, but ultimately it reveals itself as a great, old Bourbon — full of caramel and finishing with oranges, cinnamon, and lots of warmth. A worthy little brother to the ’91, as well it should be. A-
$47 each per 375ml bottle / buffalotrace.com
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