Buffalo Trace’s latest release in their Experimental Collection looks at the aging process using their wheat bourbon mash bill. It’s the same mash bill as W.L. Weller and the Van Winkle bourbons. From their press release:
The Warehouse Floors Experiment was started in 2001, when Buffalo Trace filled 15 barrels with their Wheat Bourbon Mash Bill and placed five barrels on floors one, five, and nine of Warehouse K. This brick warehouse has nine wooden floors in total and was chosen for this experiment due to the variety of tastes it provides during the aging process.
Buffalo Trace Distillery sent me a sample of each. Here’s how the three bourbons panned out:
nose: soft caramel, slight fruit (maraschino cherries), surprisingly very little oak
palate: toffee, caramel, butterscotch, a little fruit
finish: short & sugary sweet
nose: slight oak, caramel.
palate: soft entry followed by caramel, cinnamon, slight oak
finish: nice and balanced. Not as sweet as the first floor… almost bittersweet. Slightly drier and a tad spicier. Very nice.
nose: sweet oak, caramel, vanilla, smells a bit more robust
palate: a lot of oak, sweet (caramel) and a little nutty
finish: dry and spicy
The first floor was not a spicy whiskey. It was a nice combo of butterscotch, caramel, and fruit. The fifth floor introduced oak. It makes a cameo, but wasn’t the star of the show. It was also slightly spicier than the first floor. The ninth floor is an oakier and drier whiskey. The sweetness and oak went back and forth and never really meshed for me.
Also of note is the evaporation differences between the floors, especially compared to a similar earlier experiment using their rye bourbon mash bill. According to Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, “we noticed a higher evaporation rate on the wheat recipe experiment vs the rye bourbon recipe experiment. The wheat evaporated between 42-51% over the twelve years, depending on what floor the barrel was aged. The rye experiment evaporated between 25-49% over the twelve years, with significantly less on the lower floors. This higher evaporation rate is expected in wheated recipes, but it’s interesting to see it up close with the rye experiment.”
As always, the Experimental Collection is a limited, one-time release. A 375ml bottle will run you about $46. This is a great examination of the influence the aging location of a bourbon has on its final flavor. These barrels filled with the exact same distillate sat feet apart from each other and end up as completely different whiskies. I’d suggest you pick up a bottle of each to taste the differences for yourself, which is what I think is the heart of this release. However, if you’re in the market for one bottle, I’d stick with the fifth floor. Highly recommended.