(Buffalo Trace Press Release) There’s been much discussion and experimentation with aging whiskey in small barrels, but what about experimenting with large barrels? More than two decades ago, Buffalo Trace Distillery set out to do just that. American whiskey typically ages in 53 gallon oak barrels, but this whiskey matured in 135 gallon French oak barrels, one for 19 years and one for 23 years. Both barrels were filled with Buffalo Trace rye bourbon mash recipe #2, aged on the ground floor of Warehouse K, chill filtered and bottled at 90 proof. The giant barrels were given a #3 char, which is different from Buffalo Trace’s typical #4 char.
One important observation from this experiment was the evaporation rate was much lower for the larger barrels than the typical 53 gallon barrel. Other details on each are as follows:
19 Year Old Giant French Oak Barrel – This 135 gallon barrel was filled on January 28, 1993 and was bottled June 28, 2012. It came off the still at 135 proof and was entered into the barrel at 129.8 proof. The evaporation rate on this barrel was 34.8%, which is considerably lower than a typical 53 gallon barrel, which averages 55-60% evaporation for the same time frame. The flavor is clean and well rounded. The taste is sweeter than expected with caramel and butterscotch notes followed by an oaky finish
23 Year Old Giant French Oak Barrel – This giant barrel was also 135 gallons, filled on May 17, 1989 and bottled on June 27, 2012. The whiskey entered into the barrel at 130 proof and the evaporation rate was lower at 46.8% than a typical sized 23 year-old barrel. After 23 years, the flavor of this whiskey is complex and full bodied with notes of sassafras, caramel, birch, and tea berry.
“Both of these barrels yielded pleasant tasting whiskeys, and we were surprised about the evaporation rate being so low. Evidently the large size helped retain more of the whiskey while also imparting a well-rounded and full bodied flavor,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley.
These giant barrels are part of the more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of these barrels has unique characteristics that differentiate it from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, type of wood and barrel toasts. In order to further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program, an entire micro distillery, named The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. “OFC” Micro Distillery, complete with cookers, fermenting tanks, and a state-of-the-art micro still has been constructed within Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The Experimental Collection will be packaged in 375ml bottles. Each label will include all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys will retail for approximately $46.35 each. These rare experimental bottles should be available in September.