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Buffalo Trace comes clean over bad whiskey batch

Buffalo Trace has released the disappointing results of its six-year small whiskey barrel experiment, hoping others won’t make the same mistakes.

Buffalo Trace Distillery's small whisky barrels
Buffalo Trace Distillery’s small whisky barrels reaped poor results

The Kentucky bourbon producer had aged Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash #1 in five, 10 and 15-gallon barrels, as opposed to the 53-gallon barrels usually used, for six years.

But despite the whiskey aging quicker than usual, the liquid lacked the depth of flavour that’s typically obtained from the larger wood surface area of the 53-gallon barrel.

“As expected, the smaller 5-gallon barrel aged bourbon faster than the 15 gallon version,” said master distiller Harlen Whateley. “However, it’s as if they all bypassed a step in the aging process and just never gained that depth of flavor that we expect from our bourbons.”

He added that although the liquid was tasted annually, Buffalo Trace decided to cut its losses after six years.

“These barrels were just so smoky and dark, we just confirmed the taste was not going to improve.  The largest of the three barrels, the 15-gallon, tasted the best, but it still wasn’t what we would deem as meeting our quality standards.”

Buffalo Trace is disposing of the liquid without releasing it on the market, but wanted to share its findings in the hope that others, producers and craft distillers and bartenders alike, could learn from it.

“Instead of just sweeping this experiment under the rug and not talking about it, we felt it was important to share what we learned, especially in light of the debate about usage of small barrels.

“It’s one experiment we are not likely to repeat,” he added.


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