Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its exploration into different wood varietals with the release of Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak.
This species of oak is native to the Midwest U.S.
This is the fourth release in the Old Charter Oak Collection, and the first in the species series. Previous releases included Mongolian Oak, French Oak and Canadian Oak. The Old Charter Oak Collection explores the taste profiles of barrels made from trees grown in different countries, climates and soil.
For this new expression, Buffalo Trace obtained a number of barrels with staves air dried for 24 months (before assembling them into barrels). Most staves air dry for three to six months.
“The extra seasoning of the wood allows it to break down and we then capture the flavors when the barrel is charred,” explains Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “The extra time caramelizes wood sugar and reduces some of the tannic flavor.”
Buffalo Trace traditionally burns the inside of their barrels for 55 seconds, a number four char. However, these Chinkapin Oak barrels were charred slightly less with a number three char, which lasts only 35 seconds.
After the Chinkapin barrels filled up with Buffalo Trace Mash #1, they aged for nine years before being bottled at 93 proof.
Tasting notes describe this bourbon as having a nose of cherries and spearmint with hints of floral, the company says. On the palate are fresh herbs and honey, before a finish of warm baking spices, followed by dark chocolate.
The suggested retail pricing for Chinkapin Oak is $69.99 per 750-ml. bottle. Like other releases in this series, supplies are limited.
Packaging for the Chinkapin Oak also remains consistent with other releases: 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.
Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak is available in limited quantities starting this month.
Subsequent releases in the series are planned a few times each year, indefinitely.
By federal standards, bourbon is required to be aged in a new, charred oak container. While there is no specification these containers must be American white oak barrels, nearly all bourbons made today are aged in white oak barrels.
The Old Charter brand dates back to 1874 and has changed owners a few times. Buffalo Trace Distillery bought the brand in 1999. The existing Old Charter Bourbon is still produced by Buffalo Trace’s parent company Sazerac, and there are no plans to discontinue it.
The Old Charter Oak series is an upscale brand extension, like what Buffalo Trace has done with its E. H. Taylor, Jr line.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece, What’s New at Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, Barton 1792 and Michter’s.