Buffalo Trace Distillery Experiments with 300-Year-Old Oak

In Industry News by Patrick "Pops" GarrettLeave a Comment


FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (March 29, 2017) – As part of its latest endeavor in experimentation, Buffalo Trace Distillery is experimenting with barrels made of 300-year-old wood. This venture is one of many wood-specific experiments that the Distillery has led. Previous wood experiments have utilized wood harvested from around the world, analyzed the differences between barrels created from different parts of the tree and many more. This experiment, however, will allow the team at Buffalo Trace to observe what effects the age of an oak tree itself could have on the taste of the bourbon.

The barrel wood used in this trial came from 300-year-old trees previously cut in Kentucky, the oldest oak trees the Distillery could find that had already been harvested. This was a rare find as an average oak tree will end its life cycle before reaching 200 years. Working with the barrel manufacturer the East Bernstadt Company, it took more than a year to procure the 300-year-old wood and then a year of stave seasoning before the barrels were made.

The team at Buffalo Trace is eager to see what effects the drastic age of the wood will have on the bourbon.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to experiment with a variable that is even older than our Distillery, which is 244 years old,” Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley said. “We are really looking forward to seeing how extremely old wood might affect the taste of the bourbon, and hopefully will make some interesting observations along the way that will be useful going forward.”

The 300-year-old barrels were filled and rolled into an aging warehouse in December where they will remain for at least the next six years, likely longer, until ready. The barrels will be monitored every year to observe any differences the wood may impart during the aging process.

This experiment is part of Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Experimental Program, in which the Distillery is known for exploring the effects of a range of variables. Previous experiments date back more than 20 years and have explored everything from infrared light, to non-traditional grains like rice and oats, to various fill proofs, warehouse variations and much more.

These 300-year-old wood barrels join the more than 14,000 experimental whiskey barrels aging at Buffalo Trace Distillery, the largest number of experimental barrels ever held in inventory at the National Historic Landmark Distillery and most likely the world.

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Patrick "Pops" Garrett

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Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.

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