On Friday, November 22 Buffalo Trace Distillery held the grand opening of its experimental barrel warehouse, Warehouse X, that will allow the Distillery to take its quest for the “perfect bourbon” even further.
Comprised of brick, concrete block, and skylights, Warehouse X is the first new building Buffalo Trace has added to its 130 acre complex in more than 60 years. This is no ordinary warehouse though – with a small footprint of only 30 feet by 50 feet, Warehouse X has the capacity of around 150 barrels. Its most compelling feature, however, is four independently operating chambers that allow specific variables to be tested in order to determine their effect on aging barrels. There is also a barrel breezeway with an open air rick underneath a roof in which a small number of barrels will age while being exposed to the natural elements.
The first four variables Buffalo Trace plans to experiment with are natural light, temperature, airflow, and humidity. Warehouse X will test one variable at a time. For example, the first experiment will focus on the effect of natural light for at least two years. Each chamber will have varying degrees of light, ranging from 100% natural light to complete darkness. After the natural light experiment is concluded, a new experiment will start on temperature, and then studies will start on the effects of humidity, and so on.
Local officials will join Buffalo Trace executives in the ribbon cutting to open the experimental warehouse this afternoon, and soon afterwards the warehouse will be filled with barrels and the experiments will begin.
“Through the years, there’s been a lot of research done on barrels, and a lot done on bourbon, but none done on the actual structure of a warehouse,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “What is the best warehouse structure to yield the best results? No one knows. But the construction of this warehouse will give us invaluable insight into what light, temperature, airflow, and humidity do to the barrels and the bourbon inside, and hopefully put us one step closer to producing the perfect bourbon.”
Buffalo Trace Distillery broke ground on Warehouse X in the spring of 2013. The construction progress was documented on the blog Experimental Warehouse, and the blog will continue to be updated as new findings are released and new phases of experiments begin.
The whiskeys that will be aging inside Warehouse X will be bottled under the Experimental Collection line. It will be a minimum of eight years after the warehouse is complete before any whiskey will be bottled from Warehouse X. Visitors to Buffalo Trace Distillery will be able to walk inside the breezeway of Warehouse X and learn about the current experiment occurring inside through computer screens. An educational Master Distiller’s Garden is also being planted outside the new warehouse that will contain the four grains necessary for bourbon production: corn, wheat, rye, and barley. A more formal tour that will include Warehouse X is being developed for the future and will be announced soon.