Sometimes, the experimentation occurs as a part of the not-so-official R&D program.
This was the case with the hurricane that opened a side of a Buffalo Trace warehouse, and caused the ageing barrels to be exposed to the influences of the atmosphere for weeks. Turns out, that batch of Bourbon ended up being extremely good. It was bottled as E.H. Taylor Jr. Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon and sold out in an instant. If you’re able to find a bottle of it anywhere, it would set you back around $1.500.
Inspired by the hurricane, Buffalo Trace is now experimenting with different aspects of aging to recreate some of the conditions that this Bourbon was exposed to.
But leave it to a nothing-is-gonna-stop-us father & son duo behind the Peerless Distillery, opened in 2015, to register their distillery with the number 50.
Yes, they put a lot of effort in acquiring the number of the original Peerless Distillery that was located in Henderson, KY and run by their great grandfather over a hundred years ago.
The remains turned out to be old and almost intact fermentation tanks, built by the legendary Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. The find was nicknamed Bourbon Pompeii. What does it look like? Well, we'd simply describe it as an ancient spa with soaking pools waiting to be filled with… Bourbon?
Usually, they use a combination of rye, wheat and (more) corn. And since there are so many other factors that influence the final flavor profile of a Bourbon, you’d think they’d be open about the ratios of grain in their mash bill. Wrong!
Most distilleries are very secretive about their exact mash bill recipe, but they will tell you about a specific or special types of grains they use – such as the Jeptha Creed distillery that opened in November 2016, who only use a deep red variety of corn, called ‘bloody butcher.’
At Maker’s Mark printing of the labels and dipping the bottle necks in wax for their signature red wax seal are both done by hand. And yes, you can even dip a bottle in wax yourself.
At Buffalo Trace, you get a very close-up look at the bottling of Blanton’s, where everything from filling the bottles, closing them with their famous horse & jockey stoppers, to labeling are done by hand.
Barrels can be made from different types of oak wood, and the distilleries also get to choose the drying time of the wood used for their barrels.
Also, every Bourbon barrel is charred on the inside, but there are 7 levels of char, and each distillery decides what level of char they want to go with.
Some distilleries, like Michter’s for instance, even decided to toast the barrel staves before charring them, which again has an influence on the Whisky aging process.
A funny but oh-so-true piece of Bourbon wisdom we learnt at Barton distillery.