Barrel Experiments

Buffalo Trace’s New Whiskey Pushes the Boundaries of Bourbon, for the Better


May 31, 2019 Drinks By

To qualify as bourbon whiskey, federal law mandates a spirit must meet the following criteria: produced in the U.S., made from a mashbill of at least 51 percent corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, enter the aging container at no more than 125 proof, bottled to at least 80 proof and aged in new, charred oak barrels. Nowhere does it require the standard American White oak barrel. This is where Old Charter Oak comes in.

A product of Buffalo Trace Distillery, Old Charter Oak’s second release features bourbon aged for 12 years in French oak barrels. According to the distillery, French oak exhibits a denser grain than the typical American oak, lending the whiskey “more subtle flavors and a silkier texture.” The first release was 10-year-old Buffalo Trace juice aged in Mongolian oak.

This isn’t the first time the brand has experimented with French oak aging. It released a slightly younger expression under its Experimental Collection in 2015. Distillers like Maker’s Mark have conducted aging experiments with wood, too, though in a different format.

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The whiskey itself is Buffalo Trace’s Mashbill #1, a low-rye grain mixture used in the making of Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, George T. Stagg and standard Buffalo Trace.

The second installment of the Old Charter Oak series is a limited offering, just like the first release. But if you’re worried about never seeing a bottle, don’t be — the distillery says its already laid down barrels for continuous releases through 2030. The new Old Charter Oak is bottled at 92 proof, retails for $70 and arrives in stores late June.

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