Whisky Advocate

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

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?”

25 Responses to “Bourbon and Rye Whiskey drinkers, pay attention: something new!”

  1. Steve says:

    John,

    This posting certainly made me pay attention. I loved (and still have a bit left of) the Woodford Four Grain and wondered why others haven’t done something similar. This BT try isn’t quite the same thing but sounds intriguing with its slightly different spin. I’m happy to hear you like the results. Maybe this will become a regular offering in time. I’ll be in Kentucky over the holidays so maybe I’ll get extremely lucky and score a bottle.

    So, is the second bottle you got a ryed bourbon finished in a wheat whiskey barrel? If so, that would be exciting news in two ways since this would mean a second wheat whiskey on the market.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  2. John Hansell says:

    Steve, I admire your open-mindedness and hope you get to taste it.

    The second bottle isn’t what you suggest. More later on that.

  3. BourbonBreath says:

    I might have to visit jay at the partysource tomorrow and twist his arm a bit for a taste!!! BTW just received my first issue of malt advocate and absolutely love it!!!

  4. lawschooldrunk says:

    Very cool! Looking forward to tasting it.

  5. JWC says:

    great to hear john. the btec sells out very quick here in houston – will have to ask my retailer about it (but they usually don’t know when the very limited bourbons come in – necessitates almost daily visits).

  6. MrTH says:

    If it’s finished in a second-hand barrel, is it legally bourbon?

  7. I am really not a big expert in bourbon, but I’ve always wondered myself why there is so little experimenting going on with US whiskey as compared to Scotch. Certianly the laws set a tight limit to experimentation, especialy regarding casks. But these bottles show that there indeed is room for innovation.

    I would certainly love to try a sherried bourbon, but I guess this will never be possible. The Scots have so much more freedom when it comes to casks. Regarding these Buffalo Trace experiments, I guess some will just shrug their shoulders saying “Bourbon with a bourbon finish. Duh.”

  8. John Hansell says:

    JWC: I think this bottling is exclusively for The Party Source.

    Mr TH, I am looking into your question about whether it’s bourbon/straight whiskey, etc.

    Oliver, there already has been bourbon finished in sherry casks. Wild Turkey even released one for Travel Retail. And many BTEC whiskeys were finished in various wine barrels.

  9. DavidG says:

    That Wild Turkey was actually blended with Sherry.

  10. John Hansell says:

    Thanks DavidG for the clarification. (I never got a press release on it explaining the details.) I actually have a bottle of it but haven’t opened it up yet. Most of the feedback I am getting from people who have tasted it is not good.

  11. John Hansell says:

    Steve, so here are the details of the second bottling I received from The Party Source: “A barrel of straight rye was placed in a French Oak barrel from Napa Valley’s top maker of botrytized dessert wine.” It’s aged 5 1/2 years and also bottled at barrel proof (61.2%) So, it’s completely different.

  12. Mark says:

    What are your thoughts on Tuthilltown’s Four-Grain Whiskey (corn, rye, wheat and malted barley)?

    http://tuthilltown.com/category/products/aged-spirits/

    I quite like their Manhattan Rye.

  13. Steve says:

    John,

    Thanks for the details on the second bottle. This is somewhat different from BT’s other experimentals finished in wine casks since this new one is a dessert wine. If a raisin or dried fruit influence comes through without an overwhelming sweetness that sounds like a winner.

    I had forgotten about Tuthilltown’s Four Grain. I tried to pick up a bottle while in New York a couple years back but wasn’t able to. Maybe next time.

    Steve

  14. John Hansell says:

    I just inserted the label for everyone to see.

    I have not tasted the Tuthilltown’s Four Grain yet. (I HAVE tasted the standard bourbon, rye and corn whiskey.)

  15. sam k says:

    David G and John, may I refer you to the sherry article in this issue of Malt Advocate? There is mention made of scotch distillers having tried blending sherry with scotch to try and replicate sherry-finished Scotch whisky, which did not produce the anticipated result. The positive aspects of sherry-finishing have to do with the impact of the sherry-influenced wood, and not just the sherry itself. Seems the folks at Wild Turkey have now found out the same thing first hand.

  16. John Hansell says:

    Sam good point! Sometimes, ya just gotta lean the hard way.

  17. This does look tasty. Too bad Party Source doesn’t ship (or list this bottle, for that matter)

  18. Tim D says:

    You can find more at the Party Source site – my family is doing a “Bourbon Tour” with another family between Christmas & New Year and TPS is on my “to do list” – in fact the folks at BT mentioned this by name as a place I should stop!

    Here’s more on these two bottles:
    http://www.thepartysource.com/spirits_featured_view.php?item=01942

    http://www.thepartysource.com/spirits_featured_view.php?item=01941

    Like Binnys, Park Ave, etc – TPS seems to do a fair amount of “exclusive bottlings” from various Bourbon/Whiskey folks – very exciting stuff.

  19. murphy says:

    Just to set the record straight, Woodstone Creek in Cincinnati makes a FIVE grain, triple malt bourbon and has had it on the market for over a year (distribution limited to OH and recently at Binny’s in Chicago). It’s a fully-aged, straight bourbon and got rave reviews in Jim Murray’s latest Whisky Bible.

  20. Mike A says:

    Hey Tim, I’m looking forward to the Bourbon tour! We will definitely have to include a stop at TPS — these BTEC bottlings sound interesting, and I’d like to check out their other exclusive bottlings.

  21. [...] the bourbon front, John Hansell talks about this innovative new wheated bourbon finished off in a rye cask. He also gives a 95 rating to Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 year [...]

  22. [...] Collection whiskeys, High West’s “Bourye“, The Party Sources “Wheat on Rye” Experimental Whiskey (in association with Buffalo Trace Distillery), and the blossoming small, artisanal distilleries, I [...]

  23. Ralph Erenzo says:

    We’re going to get you a bottle of our HUDSON FOUR GRAIN WHISKEY. As you already know, we have been making four grain bourbon for three years now with great acclaim. We’re happy to see that our big cousins are catching up.

    R

  24. John Hansell says:

    Ralph, I’m looking forward to trying your Four Grain.

  25. Mr Manhattan says:

    Don’t think anyone’s mentioned Corsair in this thread yet. Check out what they are up to:

    http://www.corsairartisan.com/spirits/experimental-offerings/

    Michael

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