FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (Aug. 22, 2012) Sometimes, not all experiments are successful. Buffalo Trace Distillery learned this the hard way with its
small barrel experiments started in 2006.
Using 5, 10, and 15 gallon barrels, the company filled each small barrel with the
same mash bill (Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #1) around the same time, and aged them side by side in a warehouse for six years.
The results were less than stellar. Even though the barrels did age quickly, and
picked up the deep color and smokiness from the char and wood, each bourbon yielded less wood sugars than typical from a 53 gallon barrel, resulting in no depth of flavour.
While Buffalo Trace is NOT releasing these experiments, the Distillery did feel it
was important to release their findings. The company hopes others can learn from such an experiment, just as they have.
"As expected, the smaller 5 gallon barrel aged bourbon faster than the 15 gallon
version. However, it's as if they all bypassed a step in the aging process and just never gained that depth of flavor that we expect from our bourbons. Even though these small barrels did not meet our expectations, we feel it's important to explore and understand the differences between the use of various barrel sizes," said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley.
Each of the three small barrel bourbons were tasted annually to check on their
maturation progress, then left alone to continue aging, hoping the taste would get better with time. Finally, after six years, the team at Buffalo Trace concluded the barrels were not going to taste any better and decided to chalk up the experiment to a lesson learned.
"These barrels were just so smoky and dark, we just confirmed the taste was not
going to improve. The largest of the three barrels, the 15 gallon, tasted the best, but it
still wasn't what we would deem as meeting our quality standards. But instead of just
sweeping this experiment under the rug and not talking about it, we felt it was important to share what we learned, especially in light of the debate about usage of small barrels. It's one experiment we are not likely to repeat," said Wheatley.
These small barrel experiments are part of the more than 1,500 experimental
barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of these
barrels has unique characteristics that differentiate it from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, type of wood and barrel toasts. In order to further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program, an entire micro distillery, named The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. "OFC" Micro Distillery, complete with cookers, fermenting tanks and a state-of-the-art micro still has been constructed within Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Buffalo Trace Distillery is a family-owned company based in Frankfort,
Franklin County, Kentucky. The distillery's rich distilling tradition dates back to
1787 and includes such legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B.
Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee. Buffalo Trace Distillery is a fully
operational Distillery producing bourbon, rye and vodka on site and is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. The Distillery has won seven distillery titles
since 2000 from such notable publications as Whisky Magazine, Whisky Advocate
Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It was named Whisky Magazine 2010
World Icons of Whisky "Whisky Visitor Attraction of the Year." Buffalo Trace
Distillery has also garnered more than 200 awards for its wide range of premium
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