Buffalo Trace Brings Forth Latest Old Charter Oak Bourbon

The Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak bourbon series has explored the use of different oak tree varietals in the aging of American whiskey. The oak trees used for this brand vary by country of origin, or species, or U.S. state. Some barrels are even made from century old trees that grew for 100, 200 and 300 years. To date we’ve seen the use of Mongolian, French and Canadian oak in bottlings. Now, for the fourth go around, the use of Chinkapin oak is explored.

The new Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak offering, according to those behind it, focuses upon a type of oak native to the Midwest United States and whose large trees are often found in parks and on large estates. For this release the distillery “obtained a small number of barrels with staves air dried for 24 months before assembling into barrels.  Most barrel staves air dry for three to six months, but the additional time spent air drying eventually allows the whiskey to extract more rich and complex flavors deep within the oak.”

“The extra seasoning of the wood allows it to break down and we then capture the flavors when the barrel is charred,” said Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in a prepared statement. “The extra time caramelizes wood sugar and reduces some of the tannic flavor.”

Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak

Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak (image via Buffalo Trace)

It was noted by Buffalo Trace that it “traditionally burns the inside of their barrels for 55 seconds, known as a number four char. For an additional twist, these Chinkapin Oak barrels were charred slightly less. A number three char was used, charring just enough at 35 seconds to caramelize the wood sugars and unlock the flavor in the oak.”

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This bourbon, made from Buffalo Trace Mash #1, was filled into the Chinkapin barrels and then aged for nine years before being bottled at 93 proof. Official tasting notes indicate “a nose of cherries and spearmint with hints of floral.  On the palate, fresh herbs and honey abound, before a finish of warm baking spices, followed by dark chocolate.”

Plans call for Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak to be a limited bourbon release, pricing around $70 per 750 ml bottle and available starting this month. Packaging for it will remain consistent with the other releases, with “an upscale look consisting of a glass bottle with a cork finish. Each bottle has an oak medallion on the front depicting the Charter Oak tree.”


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