Whisky Advocate

Buffalo Trace….Rum?

January 17th, 2008

That Mark Brown. He’s a clever one. During my December visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Mark (the President and CEO of Buffalo Trace) thought he would have a little fun with me.

I don’t think it was even 9 o’clock in the morning. But there I was, sitting in the conference room next to his office, with a “Who’s who?” of Buffalo Trace distillery workers sitting around the table. On the table were more than a dozen sample bottles, with the labels facing in the other direction so that only they could read them.

I knew what was going to happen next.

Mark told me that he has more than 1,500 different experiments going on right now, and he thought I would like taste some of them. But, he wasn’t going to tell me which experiment it was until after I tasted the whiskey and told him what I thought of it (with everyone else looking on, of course).

I nosed and tasted my way through malt whiskeys, oat whiskeys, whiskeys with different setbacks, whiskeys with different oak board “heat” treatments, etc. He pours the next whiskey for me and says:

“What do you think this one is? If you had to make a guess, what would it be?”

I nosed, I tasted. I nosed again and tasted again. It smelled like rice to me, but they’re no way I’m going embarrass myself in front of everyone and say that it smells like rice whiskey only to find out that it’s a traditional bourbon recipe spirit that was put into toasted oak barrels and infused with bamboo shoots, or something like that.

So, I just say, “Mark, with over 1,500 different experiments, there’s no way I’m going to identify what it is. Why don’t you just tell me?”

“It’s rice whiskey, John,” he said.

Great…so much for my fifteen minutes of fame.

So, I work my way through more samples until we get down to the last two. I nose and taste them twice and say: ” I don’t like these at all. ”

That’s when Mark told me: “They’re aged white rum samples.”

Talk about bending my mind. I hesitated for a moment, recalibrating my brain cells. They make terrible whiskeys, but they are fairly decent rums!

Both were distilled in 1991 from a column still in the Virgin Islands. One was aged in a new charred oak barrel. The other was aged in a used charred oak barrel. It was an experiment to see what rum aged in bourbon warehouses and Kentucky climate would taste like.

One was very clean and fairly light in flavor. The other was rich and full-bodied, but lacked subtly and refinement.

We joked about the whole thing for a while. But then I had a thought: “What if we blended the two together?” So that’s what I did.

Bingo! This stuff tasted pretty good. Certainly good enough to bottle. The Buffalo Trace team sampled the rum blend, and agreed.

But how? When? And where will it be sold? At the distillery gift shop? Specialty retailers?

According to Mark Brown, the current plan is to release the rum under the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection line. This, I am looking forward to.

Buffalo Trace Rum. What next, I wonder?

10 Responses to “Buffalo Trace….Rum?”

  1. lawschooldrunk says:

    what next? peated bourbon!

    and, you should speak your mind in the future…I’m sure it’ll lead to more than just fifteen minutes of fame.

  2. John Hansell says:

    Peated bourbon? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is one of Buffalo Trace’s experiment.

    Maybe just a few percent of peated malt thrown in the mix with the rest of the grains. A little smokiness might just work! Not a bad idea, actually.

  3. lawschooldrunk says:

    I await the royalties…oh yeah, that idea isn’t patentable. I’ll take free bourbon, though.

  4. John Hansell says:

    If Buffalo Trace ever puts out a peated bourbon (or rye for that matter), I’ll make sure I get two. One for me, and one for you.

    I did taste a malt whiskey they are aging at the distillery, but I don’t recall it being peated. And I wasn’t particuarly crazy about it either.

  5. Sam Komlenic says:

    Peat, hell! This is America, not some island! How about maple, or hickory, or apple smoke? Or, for bourbon, corncobs, maybe?

  6. John Hansell says:

    Now you’re talkin! Bring it on! Mark, you listening?

  7. […] Submitted by Mark on Fri, 01/18/2008 – 11:09. John Hansell had an interesting opportunity to taste some of the 1500 experiments happening at Buffalo Trace. Some wild and exciting ideas are […]

  8. […] Advocate Publisher and Editor John Hansell, John has word that Buffalo Trace has been working on an aged white rum.  This is not the first distiller I’ve heard of (or sampled from) that is working on a white […]

  9. Louis says:

    John,

    The next time you find yourself in this situation, write down your guess. If you are correct, then you can triumphantly show them that you got it right after all. And if you are way off, nobody needs to know.

    Louis

  10. John Hansell says:

    Thanks. A thought that had crossed my mind, but the better side of me won. I have received a bunch of comments on this issue. I’m getting the impression that many of us have been in a situation like this.

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