Buffalo Trace Tinkers With 300 Year Old Oak For Some Bourbon Barrels

When most people think of a whiskey’s age, they think of the age of the spirit itself and how long it spent in the barrel. What’s less-discussed is the age of the wood of the barrel itself, and how this can impact the quality of the final product. Buffalo Trace is now exploring this, having recently got ahold of some three century-old wood to make into experimental bourbon barrels.

Buffalo Trace said its distillery team wanted to “observe what effects the age of an oak tree itself could have on the taste of the bourbon.” To this end, it acquired 300-year-old oak from trees which had been previously cut in Kentucky, and which were said to be the oldest oak trees they could find that already had been harvested.

Buffalo Trace 300 year barrels

image via Buffalo Trace

Now, given that an average oak tree ends its life cycle before reaching 200 years, this was something of a rare find. Buffalo Trace, working with barrel manufacturer East Bernstadt Company, noted it took more than a year to procure the 300-year-old wood, and then a year of stave seasoning before the barrels were made.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to experiment with a variable that is even older than our Distillery, which is 244 years old,” said Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in a prepared statement. “We are really looking forward to seeing how extremely old wood might affect the taste of the bourbon, and hopefully will make some interesting observations along the way that will be useful going forward.”

Plans call for the barrels to be filled and rolled into an aging warehouse by year’s end, where they will rest for at least six years, and perhaps longer, until the bourbon within is deemed ready. The barrels will be checked on a regular basis to determine if there are any differences the wood may impart during the aging process.

Should you want to get ahold of this bourbon when it is finally deemed ready, Buffalo Trace did not immediately indicate if they would release this as a bottled offering.

About the author

Nino Marchetti

As the founder of The Whiskey Wash, I'm crazy about whiskey, I can tell you, and I aim to share this passion with you through this site. As for my professional background, I’m a writer and journalist by trade and an Internet dot-com veteran prior to that. My most recent venture prior to this was as the founder and editor-in-chief of EarthTechling, a leading consumer focused green technology news website. I also have an extensive collection of whiskies from both start up distilleries and centuries old operations in Scotland alike, sprinkled with some other odds and ends from around the world, that have provided me with a unique picture of what’s going on with this wonderful spirit.