Barrel Experiments

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

November 10, 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 third release features bourbon aged for 10 years in Canadian oak barrels. According to the distillery, Canadian oak is harder and has a tighter grain structure than American oak, which affects the bourbon as it ages. “The tighter grain allows the whiskey to penetrate more layers in the wood, but it does take it longer to do it. So the longer the bourbon ages, the more flavor can be extracted,” Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley said.

The first release was 10-year-old Buffalo Trace juice aged in Mongolian oak and the second was 12-year-old whiskey aged in French oak.

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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.

Old Charter Oak isn’t the first time the brand has experimented with unique 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.

The third installment of the Old Charter Oak series is a limited offering, just like previous releases. 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 is arriving in stores now.

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Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol's home and drinks editor. He's from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He's interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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