Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky is known for its small, experimental batches of whiskey. The company likes to play with recipes, tweaking small variables, treating distilling like a science with an end product that can be slowly but surely improved with careful experimentation. Currently there are over 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the distillery’s warehouses.
One of Buffalo Trace’s latest experiments involves blasting aging barrels with infrared light. This technology is relatively new and has been employed for making wine barrels. Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace’s master distiller, simply wanted to see if this special infrared toasting would create unique flavours for his whiskey — and apparently it did. According to a press release, “Tasting notes for each describe the 15-minute infrared light barrels as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavor profile. Oak and tannins mingle with dry raisins and sweet caramel. The 30-minute infrared light barrels are described as strong wood notes complemented by a taste of dried fruit. A lingering finish leaves a hint of cracked black pepper.” Though the goal was not to decrease aging time, apparently the whiskey was “slightly ahead of normal cycling,” according to Wheatley.
The experiment was considered a success and Wheatley says that the method will likely be used again in future whiskey recipes.