by - February 5th, 2016

There is a mystery place on the grounds of the Buffalo Trace distillery complex known simply as Warehouse X. This warehouse, which we recently profiled, is small, holding only 150 barrels. But its impact on Buffalo trace could be enormous.

Warehouse X was designed as a home for experiments to reveal how environmental conditions impact bourbon aging. Buffalo Trace recently released some news from the warehouse, including one really big conclusion they’ve drawn from experiments so far.

After 18 months of experimentation, Buffalo Trace employees have determined that “the taste of bourbon can indeed be altered by the environment in which it ages.” To reach this conclusion, they’ve so far analyzed over 50,000 data points on a range of factors such as temperature, pressure, humidity, and more.

Inside Buffalo Trace Warehouse X

Some of the Buffalo Trace Warehouse X barrels hooked up like lab rats (image via Buffalo Trace)

Of everything observed by those inside Warehouse X, what stands out the most, according to a recent blog post, is that

we have observed distinct variations in flavor profile from bourbon between different chambers and the breezeway. Another surprising and delightful observation is there are distinct differences in how the barrels look between different areas inside of Warehouse X. Some barrels appear much more weathered while others appear more pristine. We are not sure if – or how – these visual differences correspond with variation in bourbon taste. But we are incredibly curious to find out. Time will tell.

The ongoing experiment, which will continue to run through June, is exploring the “effect of natural light on aging bourbon barrels.” As time goes on, the Buffalo Trace team will continue to look deeper into how the taste of bourbon is impacted by its environment.

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  • Billbo161

    I wonder how many conditions they control other than temperature. Considering that it is all the chemistry of alcohol and wood in a barrel it would seem there isn’t much to experiment with, but there are endless temperature programs that could be used over the course of a spirit’s stay in the barrel and many types of oak based on species/growing environment.