By Richard Thomas
Buffalo Trace often displays the innovative spirit of a craft distillery, but with the budget of the big player they are. These are the people who spent roughly $1 million on their Warehouse X, a laboratory for controlling all the major climatic and setting variables that play in maturation, and keep 5,000 barrels of experimental whiskey in total.
This year’s first experimental release dealt with infrared light (IR) treatments. Two batches of four barrels each were made, all filled with spirit made from Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1, generally thought of as the low rye bourbon mash bill (used in Stagg, Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace). They were also all aged for 6 1/2 years, somewhat less than is usual for the Buffalo Trace experimentals, and bottled at 90 proof.
Conceptually, I believe the idea here was to see if radiative heat adds anything to a brief charring. The first underwent 15 minutes of both short wave and medium wave frequencies at 70% power, and that is the set examined here.
In the glass, this bourbon has a light amber coloring and shows long, runny legs. The nose steps into candied territory, with candy corn sweetness, vanilla and a little honeysuckle. It’s a sweet, mellow and rather rich scent. The flavor follows in much the same vein, with a dash of cinnamon added in for good measure. The finish runs nearly clear, and because the warmth takes its time in rising up, a moment or two follows the swallow where there is nothing but air in it.
I think this first IR experimental bourbon shows less, if anything, wood influence than I might otherwise have expected. Furthermore (although this may have nothing to do with the IR treatment), the bourbon required a lot of air before I could go to work on it. Initially, the nose was hot, an unpleasant surprise for a 90 proof bourbon. Given 15 minutes, it settled down.
$46 for a 375 ml bottle.