Buffalo Trace experiments with 300yo oak

As part of its ongoing wood programme, Buffalo Trace Distillery has launched a new experiment ageing Bourbon in oak barrels made from 300-year-old trees.

The barrel wood used in this trial came from 300-year-old trees previously cut in Kentucky – the oldest oak trees the distillery could find that had already been harvested. This was a "rare find", the team said, as an average oak tree ends its life cycle before the age of 200. Working in partnership with barrel manufacturer East Bernstadt Cooperage, the wood underwent a year of stave seasoning before the casks were ready to use. The barrels were filled and moved into a warehouse last December, where they will remain for at least six years. They will be monitored annually and any differences recorded. Most recently, the distillery has experimented with wood harvested from different parts of the world, and analysed the differences between barrels created from different parts of a tree. Now, the team will measure what effects the age of an oak tree has on flavour. Harlen Wheatley, master distiller, said:"Its a unique opportunity to be able to experiment with a variable that is even older than our distillery, which is 244 years old. We are really looking forward to seeing how extremely old wood might affect the taste of the Bourbon, and hopefully will make some interesting observations along the way that will be useful going forward." Buffalo Trace Distillery is maturing more than 14,000 experimental whisky barrels, thought to be the largest number ever held in the world. This experiment is part of Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Experimental Programme, which dates back more than 20 years. The team has explored a number of variables, such as infrared light, non-traditional grains like rice and oats, various fill proofs and warehouse variations.