Whiskey Review: Old Charter Oak French Oak Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Buffalo Trace. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Buffalo Trace Distillery has delved into the world of oak varietals through their Old Charter Oak brand. First introduced in 2018, Old Charter Oak utilizes barrels sourced from oak grown in many different countries, climates, and soils, including some centuries old oaks. Old Charter is a brand that dates back to 1874, named in honor of the Charter Oak tree, “a famous symbol of American independence and free spirit.”

The French Oak Bourbon I tasted today is a revisit to their French Oak series, featuring barrels obtained from France in 2013 and utilizing Buffalo Trace’s Mash #1, the mash bill also used for the distillery’s famous Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.

Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley said of this newest expression and others in the French Oak series— “It’s power packed with sweetness, sourced from the vanilla, caramel and wood sugars while balanced with the French Oak tannins. With the French Oak barrels, we are exploring how the flavors are delivered at different levels. It speaks to the regionality of wood and how it can impact the flavor of the bourbon whiskey.”

While federal regulations state that bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak, it does not specify that the oak must be American. It is through the exploration of oaks from different countries and soil that Old Charter Oak offers variation in its profiles, separating itself from those bourbons isolated to American white oak.

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French oak is often used to age wine, and Old Charter Oak takes advantage of the rich soil in which the oak is cultivated and grown to impart what they consider a “silky” texture to their bourbon. The French Oak Bourbon is the third release of the French Oak series, aged 12-years and a limited release. Old Charter Oak Bourbon will release different oak expressions in the future, with its next planned for later this year.

Old Charter Oak French Oak Bourbon review

Old Charter Oak French Oak (image via Buffalo Trace)

Tasting Notes: Old Charter Oak French Oak Bourbon

Vital Stats: 92 Proof (46% ABV). Suggested retail price is $69.99.

Appearance: Rich, golden oak with medium viscosity.

Nose: The nose is mildly oaky, with notes of fig – the sweetness cut with a bit of sour, along with vanilla and the faint scent of chalky candy, like smarties.

Palate: Delicious. Cinnamon sugar on sourdough bread. The oak is again present in the palate, the bourbon offers a long finish with the perfect amount of spice to accompany the familiar bourbon sweetness.

The Takeaway

Summary

Buffalo Trace Distillery should be proud of what Old Charter Oak is producing. This is my first experience with the French Oak Bourbon, and I found it to be a solid, dependable bourbon with a unique flavor profile that would be great as a mixer or on its own.

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Jerry Jenae Sampson

Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.