Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously-operating distillery in the United States producing bourbon, rye and vodka on site and is a National Historic Landmark as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Distillery’s rich tradition dates back to 1773 and includes such legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee.
About 20 years ago, Buffalo Trace Distillery began experimenting with recipes and barrel treatments. Right now, there are roughly 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in warehouses. Each of the barrels has unique characteristics and experimental changes in the mash bill, types of wood, barrel toasts and more. Periodically, an experimental whiskey is bottled and sold on a limited basis. And the first of these experiments involved the use of infrared light waves.
With the goal of learning how new and different flavors can be drawn from the oak, the distillery applied the light waves to barrels before charring in 2009. Eight special barrels were constructed for this experiment. All eight first underwent the same process as standard Buffalo Trace barrels, staves were open air seasoned for six months before being made into barrels.
Then, the barrels were divided into two groups and exposed to two different levels of infrared light waves. The first group of four saw 15 minutes of short wave and medium wave frequency at 70% power. The second group of four underwent 30 minutes of the short wave and medium wave frequency at 60% power. The barrels were then given a quick 15 second char before finally being filled with Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Mash #1.
In 2016, it was time to see how the experiment worked. The bourbon from both barrels has distinct flavor notes of wood, caramel, and vanilla, as well as pepper flavors drawn from the oak. It was also noted that the short wave infrared light seemed to affect more of the inner layers of the wood, while the medium wave infrared light affected the surface and medium layers.
Tasting notes for each describe the 15 minute infrared light barrels as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavor profile. Oak and tannins mingle with dry raisins and sweet caramel. The 30 minute infrared light barrels are described as strong wood notes complemented by a taste of dried fruit. A lingering finish leaves a hint of cracked black pepper.
The Experimental Collection is packaged in 375ml bottles, and both entry proofs were bottled at 90 proof. Each label includes all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. Want to get your hands on a bottle? Fill out our online contact form today. Then come back and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!