Buffalo Trace’s latest experimental whiskeys are here, and this time out the focus is on barrel treatments, specifically how different heat treatments can impact the resulting spirit. In BT’s own words:
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 #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.
Both are 90 proof. Thoughts follow.
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Hot Box Toasted Barrel Bourbon – Big cherry on the nose. On the palate, super forward with that cherry fruit, with a modest side of vanilla. It’s almost pie-like in flavor, complete with crusty dough notes. The problem is the body. There’s so little bite here it tastes like it couldn’t possibly be 90 proof. In fact, the whole thing comes across as almost watery. The finish vanishes almost without a trace in seconds. An exceedingly strange, but ultimately harmless whiskey. B-
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection #7 Heavy Char Bourbon – 15 years is a long time to spend in even modestly charred oak, and at a #7 char — where the barrel is basically falling apart — it’s practically crazy. There’s fire and brimstone on the nose, but much less than I was expecting. The wood char comes on strong as you sip it, with a hot mountain of charcoal, wood embers, and tannin beneath it. Unlike the Hot Box whiskey, this is a wildly intense Bourbon, but if you can push past all the wood you’ll find some intriguing dark chocolate notes buried inside. That said, it’s not an easy thing to do. B-