Thursday, May 12, 2016


Buffalo Trace Distillery has revealed that it has engaged in an unconventional way of using infrared light waves for its first Experimental Collection release of 2016.

To help learn how new and different flavours can be drawn from oak, in 2009 Buffalo Trace teamed up with barrel coopers Independent Stave Company.
Buffalo Trace use infrared light waves on latest Experimental Collection release
Eight special barrels were constructed, all of which initially underwent the same process as standard Buffalo Trace barrels. The staves were open air seasoned for six months before being made into barrels.

The barrels were then 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 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 flavour notes of wood, caramel, and vanilla, as well as pepper flavours 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 flavour 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.  

These barrels are part of more than 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Some early experiments focused on aging whiskey in used wine barrels, giving the bourbons chardonnay or zinfandel finishes. There have also been experiments using non-traditional grains, (rice and oats), various fill proofs, barrels made from woods around the world.
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.
The Experimental Collection (45% ABV) is packaged with six bottles from each infrared light experiment (RRP $45.35 per bottle) and will be available from specialist retailers in the US later this month.
Posted by Steve Rush