Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Age bourbon in Mongolian oak. Why not?

The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, began an experimentation program more than ten years ago. Its purpose was to push the boundaries of what bourbon whiskey can be.

At one time they had 1,500 experimental barrels going, each a little bit different. A few have been released to the public in very limited editions. One of the best was a barrel of bourbon aged in French Oak.

Different woods aren’t the only experiment, but this latest is another one of those. The mystery wood? Mongolian Oak.

Why Mongolian Oak? “It’s a really unique proposition and something that hasn’t been tried before,” commented Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley. “We love to try new and innovative things and this one was on our list. We can’t wait to see how it turns out eight or ten years down the road.”

Not only are these barrels new and innovative, they are also expensive. Ten barrels have been put away for aging at a cost of $530 each—about four times the cost of an American White Oak barrel. It also took more than a year to coordinate production of the barrels.

The Mongolian Oak barrels are an industry standard 53 gallons. A cooperage in Spain supplied the Mongolian Oak to the Independent Stave Company and they crafted the barrels. The barrels received a #4 char—about 55 seconds—and will be filled with Buffalo Trace mash bill #1. This is the same recipe which is used for Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Look for more of these types of experiments to be conducted. Also on the list for trial are Japanese and Canadian Oak. For more information about Buffalo Trace Distillery please visit

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