This latest Experimental Collection release from Buffalo Trace Distillery plays around with French oak. This should be interesting as just about all bourbon whiskey is aged in American Oak barrels. Ten years ago, Buffalo Trace made two different barrels types: one made entirely of French Oak, and one made with American oak staves and French oak heads. These barrels were filled with their mash bill #1 whiskey and aged 10 years. (Note: I received a small review sample from Buffalo Trace.)
French Oak Barrel
This bourbon was aged in barrels entirely made of French Oak. The nose is a little lighter here. Some cherries and baked pears. Slight toffee, vanilla and soft oak. When I first poured the glass, there was a little shoe polish there, but as the whiskey sat in the glass this disappeared. This bourbon has a thick, syrupy mouthfeel. It coats your tongue with creamy caramel, light fruits, some oak tannin and a little spice. The finish is soft and slightly dry.
French Oak Barrel Head
The barrels used on this were comprised of American oak staves and French oak heads. The nose on this one is slightly sweeter, with little caramel and smoke. There’s a thinner mouthfeel than the French oak barrel bourbon. There’s lots of maple syrup and sweet oak. It finishes sweet and oaky.
It’s a blast comparing each of these side by side to see what differences the wood brings. The French oak barrel bourbon is a more syrupy and fruitier, while the French Oak barrel head bourbon is closer to a classic Buffalo Trace whiskey – sweet and oaky. I found the French Oak barrel to have a bit more character than the French Oak barrel head. Both of these bourbons should be available in stores late May 2015 for about $46 / 375ml. Recommended.