Remember Buffalo Trace’s launch of the Old Charter Oak line late last year? This revived brand heralded the limited release of a series of bourbons, each to be aged in different types of oak barrels, so drinkers could really explore the impact of wood on whiskey. The series kicked off to great acclaim with an expression aged in Mongolian Oak barrels, and as promised release #2 has arrived: Old Charter Oak French Oak Bourbon, which sees Buffalo Trace’s Mash #1 spending roughly a decade in barrels sourced from France. The whiskey doesn’t have a formal age statement, but the distillery notes that the barrels were procured in 2007. (Also compare to BT’s previous experiments with French Oak.)
We were lucky enough to acquire a fresh sample following our brief tasting experience included in the notes for Mongolian Oak. Let’s give this final version of French Oak a try!
As a whiskey with “oak” in the name twice, there is indeed plenty of wood in the mix here, the nose kicking off with a light sawdust note that recalls the frontier more than France. Push past this and a load of treasures await, with notes of butterscotch, cherry jam, and incense all melding into a delightfully beautiful and complex aromatic profile. On the palate the wood fades a bit to reveal a soft and surprisingly sweet body, creamy and expressive with notes of nut butter, figs, more butterscotch, coconut cream (or perhaps horchata?), and a layer of nutmeg-heavy spice. There’s a black pepper note that gives the whiskey some pop and ample gravity — and, when coupled with the slightly higher abv, it adds a bit of a kick to the experience.
The finish keeps things on the sweet side, but it’s not overwhelmingly sugary, rather coming across as quite feminine and delicate, and never short of engaging. Grab it if you see it.
Watch for a third release at the end of the year, and more Old Charter Oak bottlings coming out “a few times each year, indefinitely,” after that.
A / $70 / buffalotracedistillery.com