US distillery creates new bourbon flavours using infrared light

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A distillery in the United States has released an experimental set of bourbon flavours that were produced using infrared light. The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky created the new flavours by treating barrels with different levels of infrared light six and a half years ago.

The experiment began in 2009, with the goal of learning how new flavours could be drawn from the oak of barrels. Initially, eight specially-made barrels underwent the same process as standard Buffalo Trace barrels. The barrels were then treated in two groups of four and subjected to two different levels of infrared light waves. The first group underwent 15 minutes of both short and medium wave frequency at 70 per cent power. The second group was subjected to 30 minutes of both short and medium wave frequency at 60 per cent power. The barrels were then given a quick 15 second char, before finally being filled with Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Mash #1.

After six and a half years of ageing, the bourbon from both barrels expressed distinct flavour notes of wood, caramel, and vanilla, as well as pepper flavours drawn from the oak. Another observation from the experiment was that the short wave infrared light seemed to affect more of the inner layers of the wood, while the medium wave infrared light affected the surface and medium layers.

Tasting notes for each set describe the barrels that were exposed to 15 minutes of infrared light as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavour profile. Oak and tannins mingle with dry raisins and sweet caramel. The barrels exposed for 30 minutes are described as strong wood notes complemented by a taste of dried fruit. A lingering finish leaves a hint of cracked black pepper.

These barrels are part of more than 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey ageing in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. 

The 2016 experimental collection is packaged in 375ml bottles, with six bottles from each infrared light experiment in a case. Both entry proofs were bottled at 90 proof. Each label includes all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey.

Further Information

Buffalo Trace Distillery