Buffalo Trace Experimental Series
The Buffalo Trace Distilleries are well known for a lineup that includes Buffalo Trace, E.H. Taylor, Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, and Eagle Rare bourbons; Sazerac Rye and the coveted, act-fast-or-you’re thirsty Antique Series with George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Eagle Rare 17 Year Old and Sazerac Rye 18. But they have also over the course of the past few years become known for their experimental series, such as the Single Oak Project, a release of different bourbons aged from barrels that are each made from only one small section of the oak tree.
The latest release in the Buffalo Trace Experimental Series is the Warehouse Floors Experiment. As stated in the press materials: “The Warehouse Floors Experiment was started in 2001, when Buffalo Trace’s Rye Mash Recipe #1 was put into barrels and then aged on floors one, five, and nine of Warehouse K. This brick warehouse has nine wooden floors in total and was chosen for this experiment due to the variety of tastes it provides during the aging process.”
So does the location of an aging barrel really have an effect on the flavor of a 90 proof, 12 year old bourbon, even if it’s from the same exact warehouse? We were fortunate to put hands on samples of all three to find out –
Floor by floor
Floor #1: My first reaction to this is I don’t care where it comes from, this is a terrific bourbon! Extremely well balanced, with nutty caramel apple, touch of vanilla, toffee, toasted oats and just enough sweet, spicy heat (think Red Hots or Big Red gum) to finish it off. All the flavors take a while to ride off into the sunset from the palate too. Medium to heavy weight.
Floor #5: Whoa, way different. Not nearly as much of the midtones and richness present in the #1. The fruit flavors are all but missing, replaced with mere hints of that vanilla, has more of a leathery quality. Finish is hotter too, going peppery on the way out. Definitely lacking the same subtlety and balance. It’s all sweet then a whack of heat. Light to medium weight.
Floor #9: This one has noticeably less heat than #5, but still has that leathery taste. More of a sweet corn flavor, but a deeper bittersweetness than the other two, and saltier – almost like chocolate covered peanuts. Back to medium weight.
The tastes among the three definitely vary. In comparative terms, #1 is more like a LaRue Weller, #5 is more like Stagg or even Sazerac and #9 sways more towards Eagle Rare. The spice in each, of course, comes from the high rye content of the Mash, and it’s interesting to taste just how differently that plays out, getting hotter and more peppery as the barrel location rises. It would be very interesting to try this type of experiment again, but with a bourbon that has less rye in the mash bill, to get a better sense of how the other components differ. Over all, the inherent rye spice was a tad distracting when tasting them side by side (by side).