Buffalo Trace Distillery has been exploring what effect different types of oak have on the distillation process of their whisky. They’ve already released three varieties, and now the fourth is ready for consumption. For the fourth instalment in their Charter Oak Series, Buffalo Trace turned to trees that are often found in parks and on large estates—the Chinkapin Oak tree.
Each of the entries into the Old Charter Oak series has had a different taste profile brought on by the barrels made from trees grown in different countries, climates, and soil. The Chinkapin Oak is native to the Midwest United States. For this particular cask, Buffalo Trace obtained staves that were air-dried for 24 months before the barrels were assembled. While most staves are only dried for three to six months, the additional drying time means that the whisky will be able to extract more of the oak flavours hidden deep within the wood.
“The extra seasoning of the wood allows it to break down and we then capture the flavours when the barrel is charred,” explains master distiller Harlen Wheatley. “The extra time caramelises wood sugar and reduces some of the tannic flavours.” In addition to the extra dry time, Buffalo Trace also charred the wood for an additional 35 seconds for even more sugar caramelisation. With the prep-work done, the barrel is filled with Buffalo Trace Mash #1 and then aged for nine years.
The result is a 93-proof whisky with notes of cherries and spearmint with hints of floral. The palate experience involves fresh herbs and honey, with warm baking spices and an aftertaste of dark chocolate. The whisky comes in a glass bottle with a cork finish and includes an oak medallion with the Charter Oak tree emblazoned on the front. The Buffalo Trace Charter Oak Series fourth instalment is available in limited quantities and sells for $69.99.