90 proof, 10 years old
$46.35/375ml suggested retail price
The story: Buffalo Trace Distillery is well known for its experimental whiskey. At any point, more than 3,000 experimental barrels are aging in the distilleries warehouses. One of its very first releases, in 2006, was bourbon aged for 10 years in French oak barrels. In this latest experiment, Buffalo Trace created two different barrel types, one made entirely of French oak, and another using the usual American white oak staves with barrel heads made of French oak. Both types of barrels were made from staves that had been air-dried for six months and were charred for 55 seconds, then filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash No. 1, the same mash bill used for Buffalo Trace bourbon, Eagle Rare and George T. Stagg. “These bourbons, when tasted side by side, are complementary but yet have subtle differences,” Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley says. “Both are nice, well-rounded bourbons, but the 100% French oak bourbon has more soft, fruity notes to it, while the bourbon made with the French oak heads and American oak staves offers more of a smoky oak and tannin flavor profile.” Buffalo Trace kindly provided me with small samples of each, which I tested against each other and against regular Buffalo Trace. Here are my impressions of the 100% French Oak Barrel Aged Bourbon; find my notes on the French Oak Barrel Head Bourbon here.
The aroma: Definitely a softer nose than any of the traditional Buffalo Trace products, this has a distinct botanical note, like lilacs, as well as a very slight whiff of cedar; it’s much like opening a cedar chest where someone has stored sachets.
The taste: Again, soft and very mellow, with a bit of fruit. Hardly any wood characteristics, since French oak is tighter than white oak and doesn’t allow the juice to penetrate as deeply. If I hadn’t known it was 10 years old, I would have guessed it was much younger. Flatter and not as complex as any of the offerings that are aged in white oak.
The verdict: It’s always interesting to taste experiments, but not every one is a must-have. I wouldn’t rush out to buy this.