Buffalo Trace Is Releasing a New Bourbon Aged in Midwestern Oak Barrels

Old-Charter-Oak-Chinkapin Oak
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Buffalo Trace’s Old Charter Oak line of whiskeys has released a new bourbon aged entirely in barrels made of a midwestern tree species: the Chinkapin oak.

Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak is the fourth release in this series, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Buffalo Trace has spent the last few years rebuilding the “Old Charter” brand (which was once a modestly popular well bourbon) to be an experimental series of limited editions.

For Chinkapin Oak, Buffalo Trace handled the production and preparation of the special barrels differently than it handled ones constructed from traditional white oak. The staves were seasoned for 24 months, instead of the typical 3-6 months needed for the average white oak stave. Longer drying time allows more (and more complex) flavors to be released from the oak (and into the whiskey) during the charring and aging processes.

Buffalo Trace also cut the char time on these barrels; traditional white oak barrels are typically charred for 55 seconds, but the Chinkapin barrels were charred for 35 seconds. Once the barrels were ready, they were filled with newmake from the Buffalo Trace No. 1 mashbill, and the whiskey aged for nine years with a 93 proof.

So, why does the wood matter? For starters, it’s where a lot of your flavor comes from—a sense of terroir. Like coffee beans, the wood’s flavor can change dramatically based on where it comes from and how long it’s roasted. Some species will make whiskey sweeter, some earthier.

The Old Charter Oak Collection isn’t the first case of American distillers using other species of oak. For example, Westland Distillery (which made one of our favorite new whiskeys of 2019), uses Garryana oak, a rare northwestern native species that imparts a unique profile of nutty, spicy flavors into whiskey.

Old Charter Oak, however, is unique for operating as an experimental series with multiple species of oak: in the past, releases have included French Oak, Canadian Oak, and Mongolian Oak.

According to the distillery, tasting notes describe this bourbon as having 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.”

Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak will retail for $70 and will be on shelves in April.

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