This round of tinkering was conducted to find out how barrels with different wood grains affect bourbon aging. In particular, what impact do barrels made from fast-growth oak trees with coarse grain patterns have on bourbon aging, versus barrels made with slow-growth trees with fine grain?
Here are some answers to that question:
1. FINE GRAIN OAK: These barrels were filled July13, 1994 and bottled May 7, 2009. Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 was used and the product entered the barrel at 125 proof. After more than 14 years of aging, the slow-growth of fine grain wood concentrated the sugars and imparted extra doses of caramel and vanilla. The bourbon is rich and exceedingly sweet with an almost syrupy character. It also has a nice balance of flavors and complexity.
2. COARSE GRAIN OAK: The filling and aging time on these barrels is the same as with the fine grain. After nearly 15 years in the barrel, this whiskey is dry with a balance of smokiness and wood with herbal qualities. The finish is quick and woody and it is slightly heavy with a powerful complexity.
"We continue to learn new and interesting information from these experiments. We never know how they are going to turn out," said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. "It's also great to see the excitement that surrounds these releases. The customer feedback is great."
There are more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey now aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace. Each of the barrels has unique characteristics making it different from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood and barrel toasts. In order to further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program an entire micro distillery complete with cookers, fermenting tanks and a state of the art micro still has been constructed within the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
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