Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, KY), the mighty maker of whiskey nestled on the enchanted banks of the Kentucky River, recently announced the latest innovation from their ongoing Experimental Collection – Buffalo Trace Experimental Peated Bourbon, a Kentucky Straight Bourbon made with smoked peated malt.
Riding the coattails of BTD’s recent Old Charter Oak “Spanish Oak” release, it feels right and appropriate to provide context to the importance of The Experimental Collection.
A Deep Dive Look at Experimental Collection
The Experimental Collection (EC) debuted 17 years ago in 2006 as the upcoming Peated Bourbon is the 26th expression. The famed distillery would need a trophy vault larger than Ft. Knox to house all its whiskey awards. The backbone of its colossal achievements, the secret sauce of its success lies in its mantra – Honor Tradition. Embrace Change. This buffalo walks like it talks.
Look back at the inaugural 3 releases of EC in 2006:
- French Oak Barrel – aged ten years in French Oak.
- Twice Barreled – initially aged 8+ years, then finished in a new charred white oak barrel.
- Fire Pot Barrel – Aged in a barrel that was heated to 102 degrees Fahrenheit for 23 minutes.
The inaugural three releases had a primary focus – THE BARREL. Each release isolating its own variable in demonstrating the powerful effects that the oak vessel has on final flavor outcome. Of particular note “TWICE BARRELED”. Sounds a lot like Double Barreled, doesn’t it? That seems to be a consumer darling these days. BTD initially aged it’s standard #2 mashbill for 8 eight years, then aged it an additional 8 years in a new white oak barrel.
The EC is vastly impressive and overall mind blowing. The lengths of which BTD meticulously embarked to demonstrate the power and might of the individual pillars of whiskey flavor: Wood (aging vessel), Secondary Finishing, Mashbill, Barrel Entry Proof. These experiments started way back in the early 90’s. A time when American Whiskey was viewed more appropriately as a jester rather than a king.
The goal of EC is to continue accumulating a deeper understanding of whiskey’s flavor dynamics. BTD’s intense obsession and disciplined focus on experimentation is not a new thing and is certainly paramount in its display of whiskey making excellence. It’s really cool in offering the consumer an insider’s look at invaluable R&D.
And per the brand, as in real life, not every experiment is a winner worthy of bottling hence the true limited availability of EC.
“Peated Bourbon” 26th Release
It felt necessary to provide more overall context to EC, given its backstory dates back decades ago. Now, switching gears to the current EC Release – Peated Bourbon.
- Mashbill: used smoked peated malt to its standard rye bourbon mashbill
- Age: 10 years in new charred white oak barrels
- SRP: $46.99 (375ml)
- Availability: May nationwide; select retailers, bars, restaurants
“The Experimental Collection is not about breaking the rules of bourbon; in fact, 95% of our experiments stay within the confines of traditional methods of making whiskey. We conduct this research to better understand the variables that affect our final flavor profiles,” says Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller. “We were eager to experiment with peat to see how the grain influenced our mashbill from a recipe perspective. We anticipated it providing the perfect hint of smoke, just enough to compliment the sweet and spicy notes from the rye, and I’m happy to report our hypothesis was correct.”
This latest outcome from the Experimental Collection has proven successful, resulting in a one-of-a-kind Kentucky straight bourbon subbing smoked peated malt as a flavoring grain for traditional barley, which lends just a hint of smoke to the revered rye bourbon mashbill. The experimental distillate aged for nearly ten years in new charred white oak casks, undergoing regular spot checks by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and his team before bottling at 90 proof. The nose is smoky and nutty, with hints of leather, mahogany and cacao beans; the influence of the peated malt provides a palate of light smoke, brown butter and a sweet toffee finish.
While common in Scotch and other global whisky categories, peated malt is an ingredient rarely found in American whiskey production. Wheatley hypothesized that if the peat character shined through distillation as they anticipated, the smokey flavor would add an extra complexity to Buffalo Trace’s traditional rye bourbon mashbill, resulting in a spirit appealing to connoisseurs that appreciate a traditional – yet completely unique – sipping whiskey.
Buffalo Trace Experimental Peated Bourbon will be rolling out in limited quantities to its distributor network who in turn will ship to select retailers and restaurants across the United States as of May 2023. Due to the limited nature of these releases, all expressions from the Experimental Collection are packaged in 375ml bottles and available in extremely limited quantities. Suggested retail pricing is $46.99; state taxes will vary per market. More information on the Experimental Collection series can be found here.
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