Posts Tagged ‘Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection’

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 2016: Infrared Light

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Author Melanie GochnauerBuffalo Trace distillery announced the release of their latest bourbon experiment which involved the use of infrared light waves. This is the first release in their 2016 Experimental Collection. Previous experimental collections focused on the effects of wood type, barrel toast, and mashbills.

All of the details, announced today, are included in the press release:


Two Experiments Employing Short and Medium Wave Light Make Up the First Experimental Collection Release for 2016

FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (May 11, 2016) Buffalo Trace Distillery has engaged in an unconventional way to use infrared light waves for its latest bourbon experiment, applying the light waves to barrels before charring, with the goal of learning how new and different flavors can be drawn from the oak. 

Working with barrel cooper Independent Stave Company in 2009, eight special barrels were constructed. All eight first underwent the same process as standard Buffalo Trace barrels, staves were open air seasoned for six months before being made into barrels.

EC Infrared 15Then, the barrels were divided into two groups and subjected to two different levels of infrared light waves.  The first group of four barrels underwent 15 minutes of both short wave and medium wave frequency at 70% power.  The second group of four barrels was subjected to 30 minutes of both short wave and medium wave frequency at 60% power. The barrels were then given a quick #1 (or 15 seconds) char, before finally being filled with Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Mash #1.

After six and a half years of aging, the bourbon from both barrels expressed distinct flavor notes of wood, caramel, and vanilla, as well as pepper flavors drawn from the oak. Another observation from the experiment was the short wave infrared light seemed to affect more of the inner layers of the wood, while the medium wave infrared light affected the surface and medium layers.   

Tasting notes for each describe the 15 minute infrared light barrels as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavor profile. Oak and tannins mingle with dry raisins and sweet caramel.  The 30 minute infrared light barrels are described as strong wood notes complemented by a taste of dried fruit. A lingering finish leaves a hint of cracked black pepper. 

EC Infared 30These barrels are part of more than 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of them has unique characteristics that differentiate them in distinct ways. Some examples of experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood, and different 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 has increased its commitment to experimentation with the recent addition of its Warehouse X. Although small in size, Warehouse X is designed to explore the extent of environmental influences on the flavor profiles of whiskey.

The Experimental Collection is packaged in 375ml bottles, with six bottles from each infrared light experiment in a case. Both entry proofs were bottled at 90 proof.  Each label includes all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys retail for approximately $46.35 each and will be available in late May, 2016.  Experimental Collection releases are generally quite small and have limited availability. For more information on the Experimental Collection or the other products of Buffalo Trace Distillery, please contact Elizabeth Hurst at 

About Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery is an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky. The Distillery’s rich tradition dates back to 1773 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 a National Historic Landmark as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Distillery has won 17 distillery titles since 2000 from such notable publications as Whisky Magazine, Whisky Advocate Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It was named “Brand Innovator of the Year” by Whisky Magazine at its Icons of Whisky America Awards 2015.  Buffalo Trace Distillery has also garnered more than 300 awards for its wide range of premium whiskies. To learn more about Buffalo Trace Distillery visit  To download images from Buffalo Trace Distillery visit


# # #


Whisky Advocate’s Spring 2015 Issue’s Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Whisky Advocate’s Spring issue’s Buying Guide is brimming with reviews; 114 of them to be exact. We’re going to give you a sneak preview by revealing the 10 highest-rated whiskies right here, right now. We start with #10 and conclude with #1.

#10: Tomintoul Reserve 37 year old, 43%, $600

Not what you’d expect from a malt at this age. Instead of oak dominating the nose, it’s citrus in focus, with orange marmalade, candied orange, and even orange blossom. On the palate this whisky is light and delicate, leading with the citrus notes from the nose. This symphony of orange is followed with toffee, ginger, oak, and rancio in a combination that’s well balanced and integrated. Unique for its age, a definite treat for those who prefer lighter and more delicate whiskies. (U.S. only, 600 bottles)–Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Orphan Barrel_Lost Prophet Bottle Shot_Lo Res#9: Lost Prophet 22 year old, 45%, $120

The fourth release (and best so far) in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series. This bourbon was distilled at what was then called the George T. Stagg distillery (now Buffalo Trace) and spent the last several years maturing at Stitzel-Weller. It’s nicely balanced and not over-oaked, with spice (clove, cinnamon), oak resin, and leather, along with sweet notes (honeyed fruit, soft vanilla, coconut custard) and a nice creamy texture. Better than most 20-plus year old bourbons on the market.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92GF_25_Lockup

#8: Glenfiddich Rare Oak 25 year old, 43%, £250

A classic mature ‘Fiddich nose, that mix of chocolate, sweet fruits, and funkiness. Dried apples, a little currant, but also a pure thread of sweetness. In time, a little fresh mushroom. Complex. Soft on the tongue, so you need to concentrate on what’s happening. Later becomes minty, with supple tannins and a little artichoke on the finish. Water needs to be handled carefully to bring out green herbal notes. I’d probably keep water on the side. Excellent. (Travel Retail only)—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#7: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old wheated bourbon from floor #9, 45%, $47/375ml

Darker, more intense and mysterious in personality when compared to its two siblings. Notes of barrel char, roasted nuts, polished oak, and tobacco, peppered with dried spice. Fortunately, sweet notes of toffee, maple syrup, and caramel stand up to the dry notes and provide balance.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Blue_Hanger_11th_700ml_bottle#6: Blue Hanger 11th Limited Release, 45.6%, £90

It’s the intensity of flavor that just grabbed me by the lapels and spun me round. It harbors intense tangelo juiciness; that unparalleled concentration of deep citrus skillfully mingled with dark vanilla, dried apricots, and gentle smoke. This goes the distance, delivering wave after delicious wave: peach juice, mandarin, pineapple cubes, and lemon zest. A firm, unctuous finish shows a little charred wood and dark sugar cloaked in fine smoke. Tongue pleasing and very special indeed.—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92JPWisers_RedLetter_3D (3)

#5: Wiser’s Red Letter 2014 Release Virgin Oak Finish, 45%, C$100

Pencil shavings, then vanilla, caramel, barley sugar, and bitter candied orange peel. Mild white pepper persists in a spicy fusion, from which a subtle but energizing pithiness teases out delicate smatterings of cloves, ginger, and allspice. The fruitiness of canned peaches, apricots, and sour green apples adds dimension and balance. Complex and so tightly integrated that rich as it is, individual flavors are little more than nuances. Finish is long and gingery with refreshing citrus pith. (Canada only)—Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#4: Redemption Barrel Proof Rye 10 year old, 55.1%, $180

Redemption delivers a 10 year old, barrel proof rye (sourced from MGP); the bottled whiskey is mingled from only six barrels. Nose of hot, bitter rye spice and caramel with oak. Great whambam! feel of sweet whiskey followed immediately by oily, spicy rye, which then controls the flavor and finish without dominating. Not over-oaked, and barrel proof  7yo- no backgroundthese older MGP barrels are finally showing what 95% rye can do. At 6 years, it could be a high-rye bourbon; this simply shouts rye. Fascination.—Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#3: Redemption Barrel Proof Rye (Batch #1), 61%, $80

Redemption repeats their barrel-proof MGP-sourced 95% rye, now at 7 years old. Has a year significantly changed last year’s 90-point outing? Oak is more subdued and the pepper floats on sweet, light caramel. It is still quite nice at full-bore, no water needed. Sweet vanilla and bitter rye oil blend surprisingly well; this is hitting the bells, and it’s better integrated. Big, swaggering, and sporting big-barrel maturity. Can go toe-to-toe with almost any rye out there.—Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#2: Lot No. 40, 43%, $40PRUSA - Images - Lot 40 and Pot Still

Corby’s latest Lot 40, this one undated, comes from the same distillation batch as the 2012 release, but with a couple of extra years in wood. The familiar flavors are all there: dustiness, sour rye, hard wet slate, floral notes, exotic fruits, sweet spices, and biting white pepper. Over these, time has sprinkled licorice root, dried dates, oatmeal porridge, vanilla, hints of bike tires, and mango peels. Flavors remain fully integrated with faint tannins underscoring a long sour-rye finish.—Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

BT Wheated Bourbon Warehouse Floor #5#1: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old wheated bourbon from floor #5, 45%, $47/375ml

Nicely balanced flavors, and complex. Spices dance on the palate (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), balanced by underlying caramel and butterscotch, and subtle honeyed orchard fruit. Lingering, well-rounded finish. A fabulous wheated bourbon!—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

Buffalo Trace’s Experimental Funhouse: Warehouse X

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Lew BrysonPhotos by Fred Minnick

Buffalo Trace is well-known as an innovator. They’ve won awards for it, they’ve seen plenty of ink (and pixels) for it, and they even sell the results of this innovation as their Experimental Collection; selected barrels from a reported 1,500+ variations aging in various warehouses. Distillery president Mark Brown has likened the multi-decade experimental project to a car company’s Formula 1 racing program: technical innovation to improve the general process and product.

But up until now, the experiments have focused on recipe (different grains and proportions), barrel (type of oak, size, seasoning, entry proof, and the whole Single Oak project), and things that are easily changed one or two or five barrels at a time. The E.H. Taylor microdistillery is able to feed that kind of experimentation with very small batches of different distillate. But now things move into a new arena with the christening of Warehouse X, a building expressly designed to test the effects of environment on aging. (Buffalo Trace has always designated their warehouses with single letters; the sequencing of “X” for this experimental warehouse was happily fortuitous.)

The idea for Warehouse X started years ago, literally with a sketch on the back of a napkin, a conversation between Mark Brown and former warehouse manager Ronnie Eddins. “If it hadn’t been for Ronnie Eddins,” Brown said in tribute, “there wouldn’t have been the energy for the Experimental Collection. I was intrigued by his ideas for warehouse experimentation. All the research on aging has been done to get rid of it. What about getting more out of it? Why not a glass roof, bigger windows, or smaller ones?”

North side of Warehouse X

North side of Warehouse X

But warehouses aren’t cheap, not even small experimental warehouses, so the idea slumbered for years, until a tornado tore off the back of Warehouse C in 2006. For six months, until repairs could be made, the barrels aged in the open; no wall, no roof. The whiskey was eventually bottled as E.H. Taylor “Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon.” It was, as Brown admits, a bit of a stunt, some fun.

“But the whiskey was great!” he hooted. “The whole debate on warehouse experimentation resurfaced.” Master distiller Harlen Wheatley got a $250,000 budget to design and build a small warehouse with four different bays and a “patio.”

It turned out to cost more like a million dollars when everything was said and done. One bay will age whiskey in total darkness, one will cycle in temperature (on varying schedules), one will be subject to changes in humidity (“Humidity’s a mystery,” Brown said), and the fourth will be affected by changes in airflow. The patio will try to replicate the effects of the tornado; open-air aging.

Brown thinks sunlight on the barrels may be the key, though the thought worries him, in a humorous way. “We’ll look like a bunch of chimpanzees if all we needed to age the perfect bourbon was a field full of barrels and a guard tower,” he said with a grin…a wry grin.

Of course, the question is…”the key” to what? When Buffalo Trace embarked on this project some years ago (officially; Ronnie Eddins had been running it off the books for years!), there was talk of the “holy grail,” the “perfect bourbon.” Like bourbon, we’re all older, more mature, and more mellow now (and maybe a bit woody, too), and talk of the “perfect bourbon” makes us edgy. Who’s to say what is the perfect bourbon?

Indeed, Brown agreed, and easily acknowledged that different people have clearly different ideas about it. The purpose of the experimental program is to learn what will create different character in bourbons so that the process can be more readily controlled and optimized for flavor, and sometimes very different flavor. After we’d seen the warehouse, we sat down to taste whiskeys that had been aged in Mongolian oak (incredibly smooth and fruity at only 5 years old, but at about $1,000 a barrel, don’t expect a lot of it), four and six grain bourbons, and a shockingly different — peppery, sweet mint, explosively spicy — 1 year old whiskey that Brown and Wheatley mostly grinned about without saying much, other than that it was “bourbon.”

It was clear that this project is not about changing Buffalo Trace, or Elmer T. Lee, or the Antique Collection. “We’ve thought a lot about the project on a technical level,” Brown said. “We didn’t think about retailing it.” However, he did say that there are some Experimental Collection projects that will go commercial, and allowed that the portfolio had room for “one more brand.”

Brown also emphasized that while innovation looked to the future, the distillery’s recent recognition as a National Historical Landmark (there were new banners up all over the grounds) looks to the past. The process of approval brought out even more about the site’s history, which goes back over 200 years (older than most Scotch whisky distilleries).

Mark Brown and Harlen Wheatley

Mark Brown and Harlen Wheatley

“This is a crusade for us,” he said. “We feel we have a custodial role; we have to get this distillery intact to the next generation.” Despite some low points, Buffalo Trace has survived, and as we walked around the distillery, it’s clear that it is thriving, stronger than ever. There are plans for expansion, something I never would have guessed would be needed when I first toured here in the 1990s.

But innovation, like the Experimental Collection and Warehouse X, begets success, especially when linked to the independence that’s characterized Buffalo Trace. Don’t expect the desire to investigate the art of bourbon manufacture and aging to change here any time soon.


2013: The Year of Great Premium Bourbon

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

author-hansellWhiskey prices keep climbing, and none of us are happy about it. It’s a simple matter of economics: supply vs. demand. The entire world has discovered the joy of whiskey and there isn’t enough to go around.

But if we can set aside the price issue for a moment and look at the quality of the product on the market, it’s quite apparent to me that 2013 will go down as a great year for premium and super-premium bourbon, and other American whiskeys, like rye and Tennessee. Let’s take a look at what’s been released this year.

The premium whiskeys we expect to be great every year are great again this year

Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Eagle Rare 17 yr., Parker's_ALS_Promise of Hope_Bottle ShotSazerac 18 yr., and Thomas H. Handy) delivers an amazingly consistent combination of quality and variety.

Then there’s the new Parker’s Heritage Collection “Promise of Hope” bottling. While the Antique Collection might get all the attention, Parker’s new release is just great, honest, no frills bourbon that I could drink every day and never tire of it.

On top of this, we have another stunning Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch for 2013. After we gave the 2012 Limited Edition Whisky Advocate’s “American Whiskey of the Year” honors, I thought that there was no way Jim Rutledge and the team at Four Roses could ever match that one. But they did with the 2013 Small Batch release! And the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel offering is no slouch either.

Even the “hit and miss” annual releases are great this year

2013 saw two different Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection releases, six bottles in total—four different wheated bourbonsOldForBDay2013 that experimented with barrel entry proof and two 15 year old bourbons that varied the barrel stave seasoning times. All four wheated bourbons, while tasting quite different, were very good to excellent. The 15 year old bourbon with the extended 13 month stave drying time blew me away with enriched sweet, creamy notes that balanced the dried oak spice that comes with 15 years of aging, without the harsh tannins often found in bourbon that old.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release for 2013 was the best in many years. And my Elijah Craig 21 year old Single Barrel rocked! (Mine was from Barrel No. 42 if you’re keeping track. I did taste whiskey from other barrels and they were still good, but not quite of the stature of No. 42.)

George Dickel gets into the act too!
Dickel Hand Selected Barrel 9
After wishing for years that George Dickel would put out some great super-premium Tennessee whiskeys, they finally did. I was thrilled to see them introduce to retailers the new single cask “hand selected barrel” offerings at both 9 and 14 years of age—and higher proof! I particularly enjoyed the 9 year old samples I tasted. There’s so much untapped potential there at Dickel. Let’s start tapping it.

The new stuff is also exciting

Angel’s Envy Rye was like a breath of fresh air, combining rye spice with the rummy notes gained from being finished off in rum barrels. Beam came out with a new Distiller’s Masterpiece finished in PX casks and two new “Signature Craft” releases; one a standard 12 year old, the other finished with Spanish brandy. Wild Turkey Forgiven married bourbon with rye whiskeys. Okay, so maybe some of this new stuff isn’t of the caliber of the other whiskeys I mentioned above, but it was the icing on the cake of a really great year.

Sure, there’s still some ho-hum whiskeys

The Stagg Jr. I reviewed was a bit harsh and aggressive on the finish, and I could take or leave the two new Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Limited Edition Malt releases. Still, these were the exceptions to what otherwise was an outstanding year for premium and super-premium American whiskey.

All this, and not one mention of Pappy…

Some new whiskeys I like, and some I don’t like (part 1)

Monday, August 12th, 2013

John HansellWhiskeys might be more expensive (and perhaps harder to find) these days but, after tasting my way through some new releases, it’s pretty clear that there are still plenty of high quality whiskeys coming on the market. Here’s a run down of the ones I like, don’t like, and why.

Part 1 focuses on American Whiskeys. Part 2, which I will publish in about a week or so, will address some new single malt Scotch whisky, blended Scotch whisky, and a new Indian whisky I’ve recently tasted.

Bourbon & Tennessee Whiskeys

Four Roses Small Batch 2013Let’s start with new bourbon releases. There are quite a few of them. For those of you who enjoyed the Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch (I did–I named it Whisky Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year last year), I think you will like the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch. It  is similar in flavor profile, with a little more oak spice and a touch less honey. This whiskey is already on my short list of favorite new bourbons for 2013.

Similarly, I am equally impressed by the new Elijah Craig 21 Year Old Single Barrel review sample that I have (Barrel No. 42). Heaven Hill has discontinued the most recent 20 year old offering and has replaced it with a 21 year old release. As you will recall, two years ago I named the Elijah Craig 20 Year Old  Single Barrel (Barrel No. 3735) our American Whiskey of the Year. The new 21 year old single barrel is very similar in profile to the award-winning 20 year old with a bit more oak influence. It’s elegant, subtly complex, with some intriguing tropical fruit, and–most important of all–not over-oaked, which is something we all need to be concerned about when buying bourbons that are 20+ years in age.

Let me be clear about one thing though, regarding these Elijah Craig 21 year old single barrel offerings: I’m giving you my thoughts on whiskey from just one barrel (Barrel No. 42), and I don’t know what the other barrels are going to taste like. Hopefully, they will be similar in profile. However, after I tasted our award winning EC 20 single barrel two years ago, I tasted two other barrels after that and both–whiles still very nice bourbons–definitely showed more oak in their flavor profiles. I am hoping to taste more of the Elijah Craig 21 year old single barrels as they come out. If I do, I’ll offer my thoughts here in the comment thread. Bottom line here: the barrel that I’m reviewing (and that other writers are reviewing right now) are review samples sent directly to us from Heaven Hill. Could they have cherry picked the best barrel or barrels? It’s possible. Fair warning…

EC 21I’ve been checking out the recent Booker’s Bourbon offerings. There’s one in particular I wanted to tell you about that I think really stands out. It’s richly flavored and nicely balanced. It’s my favorite Booker’s so far this year, and it’s just about get into circulation. (I’m not sure exactly where, though. Sorry.) It’s bottled at 127.1 proof and is Batch No. 2013-4.

You may have heard rumblings of a new George Dickel Barrel Program. Well, it’s definitely a reality. I’ve always been a big fan of George Dickel (especially the Barrel Select), and when I heard that they were going to start offering older, single barrels to retail accounts for purchase, I got very excited.

At the moment, there are two different ages of single barrels available to retailers to chose from: a 9 year old (bottled at 103 proof) and a 14 year old (bottled at 106 proof). Diageo was kind enough to send me two barrel samples from each year, and I’ve just tasted them. They are delicious! If you’re a Dickel fan, then you’ll want to track down a bottle. Based on the samples I was sent, here’s my advice: go for the 9 year old if you can find one. I think they’re a little more balanced (i.e. not as oak-driven) as the 14 year old and I suspect it will cost less too! (If any of you know where to find the 9 year old, let us know. I’d like to buy one myself!)

BTEC Wheat Mash Enrty ProofThe newest release of Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection is out, and this time there are four of them. They’re all wheated bourbons and the difference between them (from a production standpoint) is the barrel entry proof (125, 115, 105, and 90). In short: if you can find yourself a bottle of one of these, give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed, if you enjoy wheated bourbons. (My favorite is the 90 proof entry expression.) Some will rate a 90 or more when I eventually review them formally.

STAGG JR FrontOkay, and now for the bourbon that didn’t impress me: the new Stagg Jr. by Buffalo Trace. It is, according to my press release, a younger sibling to the more mature George T. Stagg releases. There’s no age statement, but it contains whiskeys aged for 8-9 years. Yes, Stagg Jr. big and bold like the original George T. Stagg, but it is harsher and more aggressive (with the spice and oak notes) than George T. Stagg. I just don’t enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong. George T. Stagg is certainly no wimpy whiskey. But it’s usually also incredibly complex and well-balanced. Stagg Jr.’s aggressiveness crosses to line. My advice: save your pennies and spring for the older George T. Stagg if you are choosing between the two.

Review: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection “Rediscovered Barrels”

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection “Rediscovered Barrels”
When Buffalo Trace acquired the Old Charter brand, barrels of whiskey came with the deal. Here are three that they “rediscovered.” They’re old for bourbon, so you’re going to find a good dose of wood in their flavor profile.

BTEC “Rediscovered Barrels,” 1993 vintage, 17 year old, 45%, $47
Richly flavored and surprisingly sweet on the nose and front of the palate. A tactile whiskey: creamy, yet becoming resinous toward the finish. Notes of vanilla saltwater taffy, roasted nuts, tobacco, and molasses. An intriguing whiskey, and my favorite of the three. 

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

 BTEC “Rediscovered Barrels,” 1991 vintage, 19 year old, 45%, $47
Quite bold and crisply spicy. The most palate-piercing of the three. Well defined flavors of cool mint, warming cinnamon, honey-kissed fruit, and caramel. Briskly spicy finish. When I nose this whiskey, it feels like it’s brandishing a sword at me and shouting “en garde!”

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

BTEC “Rediscovered Barrels,” 1989 vintage, 21 year old, 45%, $47
A surprising amount of sweetness to balance the wood spice. Notes of pencil shavings, glazed fruit, candy corn, vanilla fudge, and bold polished leather on the finish.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Top Ten New Whiskies”

Monday, February 28th, 2011

There were many great whiskies released in 2010, and it’s good to know that (in an era of rapidly increasing prices) several of them are less than $100. Eight of the whiskies below were rated “Classic” status (95 points or higher); two more just missed it, with ratings of 94. Here they are, listed alphabetically:

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%, $47/375ml
Surprisingly light and fresh for a 15 year old whiskey. Crisply spiced, with hints of dried fruit, kissed with light honey and a wisp of smoke. Balanced and clean throughout, and very drinkable.

Compass Box Flaming Heart (10th Anniversary bottling), 48.9%, $105
A marriage of seven different whiskies from three distilling regions (Highland, Islay, and Island) aged in both American and French oak casks. It demonstrates the advantage of marrying whiskies from more than one distillery. More smoke and tar on the palate than the nose, yet always in balance. Well played!

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve, 40%, $70
Perhaps the finest Canadian whisky we have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky!

George T. Stagg, 71.5%, $70
Very close to last year’s release in personality, with great balance between the sweetness, spice, and fruit. Nicely structured too, with clearly defined flavor notes. A great value, considering it’s almost the equivalent of two bottles of bourbon if diluted.

GlenDronach Grandeur, 31 year old, 45.8%, $700
The new ultra-mature release, following its 33 year old predecessor (bottled by previous owners). It’s nice to see the higher ABV. Very soothing. Quite deep on the nose, and viscous (almost sappy) on the palate. I like that it’s sherried, and the sherry is kept in balance.

Glenfarclas, 40 year old, 46%, $460
Glenfarclas has a solid reputation for aging very well. This new 40 year old is proof.  It’s complex and well-rounded, with great depth and no excessive oak. A classic, well-matured Glenfarclas — and a very good value for its age.

Glenglassaugh, 40 year old, 44.6%, $2,525
An excellent example of a very mature, sherried whisky done the right way. Much darker and more decadent than its younger siblings. Tasting this whisky, you know it’s old, but you also know it’s very good.

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, 1973 vintage, 49%, $1,250
A marriage of three casks, one of them an ex-sherry butt. The sherry is certainly evident, and this one is more sherried than many of the Cellar Collection whiskies. Polished and seamless, with no trace of excessive oak. One of the richest — and finest — Cellar Collections to date.

Sazerac Rye, 18 year old, 45%, $70
An impressive whiskey, and an improvement from last year’s release. It’s soft (for a straight rye), well rounded, and easy to embrace, with tamed spice, subtle date, and polished leather on the finish. An excellent example of a very mature rye whiskey.

William Larue Weller, 63.3%, $70
Very similar to last year’s release. (A good thing, since that one was wonderful!) Very smooth, with layered sweetness, dark fruit, cinnamon, and polished oak on the finish. A whisky of elegance and sophistication. A benchmark wheated bourbon.

Review: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 2010 release

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

There are two again this year. And once again, there’s an interesting contract between the two. I’m liking the lighter, cleaner, more elegant one better. You might have a difficult time trying to find these whiskeys at the suggested retail price listed below, given that they are very much in demand.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%, $47/375ml
Surprisingly light and fresh for a 15 year old whiskey. Crisply spiced, with cinnamon, evergreen, vanilla, anise and teaberry. Hint of dried fruit, kissed with light honey and a wisp of smoke. Balanced and clean throughout, and very drinkable. I’m finding it very hard to find anything to gripe about here. An excellent whiskey!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “French Oak Barrel Aged,” 45%, $47/375ml
Dark, big and brooding. A mouthful of oak spice, resin, and leather. Surprisingly (and happily) the oak is never excessive—even on the finish. A mélange of toffee, maple syrup, candied corn props it all up. The flavors aren’t as well defined as its sibling release (reviewed above), and there’s a peculiar hint of “dunnage warehouse” (think damp earth) to it that adds intrigue. A very characterful whiskey worthy of debate.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

Buffalo Trace releases newest Experimental Collection whiskeys

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

There were several new whiskey releases announced while I was out of the office last week. I’ll get you up to speed on all of them over the next few days.

First up: the two newest Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection whiskeys. Details are below in the press release I received. I tasted both (a few times) informally over the weekend and I like both of them. (Formal review to follow soon.) The contrast between the two is striking.



French Oak Barrel Aged and American Oak Chips Seasoned Whiskeys are Latest in the Collection

FRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (Aug. 18, 2010) – After more than 15 years in the barrel, Buffalo Trace Distillery releases the two latest whiskeys in its highly acclaimed Experimental Collection – a French oak barrel aged whiskey and an American oak chips seasoned whiskey. This experiment explores the differences between whiskey that has been aged in a new toasted French oak barrel, versus whiskey aged in a used American white oak barrel that has been seasoned with toasted oak chips. “It’s incredibly exciting to see how experiments like this will turn out, and we’re thrilled to offer these two whiskeys after 15 years,” said Kris Comstock, brand manager for Buffalo Trace.

Both whiskeys were put up April 7, 1995 on the eighth floor of Warehouse K.  Details are as follows:

  • 1995 French Oak Barrel Aged: This barrel was filled on April 7, 1995 and bottled July 21, 2010. Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash Bill #2 was used and the product entered the barrel at 125 proof. After more than 15 years and 3 months of aging, the new toasted French Oak barrel added rich complexity and interesting flavors to this whiskey. The result is a leathery and woody whiskey that has a good depth with a dark, dry finish.
  • 1995 American Oak Chips Seasoned: This barrel was filled on April 7, 1995 with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash Bill #2 and toasted oak chips were added. After more than 15 years and 4 months of aging, this whiskey was bottled on August 5, 2010. The whiskey in this charred American White Oak barrel derived a smoky complexity from the toasted oak chip seasoning. It is a lighter whiskey for its age and has a good flavor without being heavy.  

“Our Experimental Collection always allows us the opportunity to say “what if… and then to try it and see what happens,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “It’s always great to learn from these experiments and see what works and what doesn’t. And the excitement from our fans as we release a new offering is always gratifying.”

There are more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey now aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of these barrels has unique characteristics making it different 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 complete with cookers, fermenting tanks and a state of the art micro still has been constructed within Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The Experimental Collection will be packaged in 375ml bottles. Each label will include all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys will be released in August 2010 and retail for approximately $46.35 each. Each experiment is very rare and very limited. For more information on the Experimental Collection or the other products of Buffalo Trace Distillery, please contact Kris Comstock at

Bourbon and Rye Whiskey drinkers, pay attention: something new!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

It wasn’t very long ago when I was lamenting how the Scotch, Irish, and even Japanese whisky industries were being creative and experimentative, while the very traditional and loyal (to the point of being borderline stubborn) bourbon/rye whiskey  industry refused to participate.

Well, times have changed. And it’s no surprise that Buffalo Trace has their fingers in this.

A decade ago I asked why we don’t have four grain bourbon (corn, malted barley, rye AND wheat). Why must it be ryed bourbon or wheated bourbon? Brown-Forman broke that barrier with their Four Grain Master’s Collection several years back. But, there’s more than one way to marry wheat and rye.

#2 Wheat On Rye label crop (Small)Today I received two review bottles of Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection whiskeys. Not from Buffalo Trace, but from The Party Source, a retailer in Kentucky. I’m only going to talk about one of the whiskeys in this post.

It turns out that this bottling is a wheated bourbon that was finished off in a freshly emptied rye barrel. I have not talked to Buffalo Trace or The Party Source yet, but  I gather that the concept here, if I can be so assuming, is to marry the mellow drinkability of a wheated bourbon with the vibrant, spice intensity of a rye whiskey.

You know what? It works. I have only tasted this 8 year old whiskey informally tonight, but the wheated bourbon comes through first on the palate, then the rye emerges as the flavors progress on the palate. And, as an added benefit, this whiskey is bottled at 63.5%, not the typical 45% ABV of previous  Experimental Collection bottlings.

This is certainly exciting on three levels–and all new, as far as I know:

1) I don’t recall a wheated bourbon being finished off in a rye barrel and then bottled.

2) Buffalo Trace appears to be willing to work with retailers, allowing them to create/bottle their own Experimental Collections. How many retailers? I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll find out.

3) It’s bottled at cask strength. A first for the BT Experimental Collection

I’m sure I’ll get a lot more answers in the coming days–both from Buffalo Trace and The Party Source (and maybe other retailers  who are doing the same thing but haven’t told me yet). But, I wanted to let you know what I found out, when I found out. After all, this blog is called “What Does John Know?”