Even if you have the most minimal knowledge of spirits, you’ve probably heard of Buffalo Trace. The iconic brand is well known for its flagship Buffalo Trace Bourbon as well as Eagle Rare, EH Taylor, Stagg, Weller, and the much sought-after Van Winkle expressions. But, if you delve a little deeper, you’ll learn that the Kentucky-based distillery has been working on its “Experimental Collection” for more than twenty years.
As of 2021, there are more than 30,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses. For most of the distillery’s existence, the expressions were whiskeys that were differentiated by the use of experimental mash bills, various barrel toasts, and other unique techniques. But now it’s releasing something truly experimental. Instead of bourbon, the brand is releasing its first foray into the world of baijiu.
If you’re not up on this colorless East-Asian liquor, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s the most popular global spirit. Making up around 31% of all spirits sales worldwide, baijiu usually ranges from 80 to 120 proof and is distilled from fermented sorghum and various other ingredients (millet and sticky rice are both used on occasion). Buffalo Trace’s Baijiu-style spirit is distilled in a similar method to its bourbon, but the mash bill leans on sorghum and peas rather than the usual corn and grains.
Now here’s the twist. While most baijiu is unaged, Buffalo Trace decided to mature its expression for 11 years in a combination of uncharred, charred, and toasted white oak barrels. That makes for a dark spirit with new layers of nuance and familiar touchstones for whiskey drinkers — a true hybrid. Our review of this experimental expression is below.
Average Price: MSRP $46.99
This baijiu-style spirit is the 24th experimental release from Buffalo Trace. The first expression was dropped in 2006. While baijiu itself might be a bit of a mystery to some Americans, it’s produced in a very similar fashion to whiskey. To put it simply, it’s a distilled spirit made from fermented grains.
Sounds familiar, right? It’s just the mash bill that’s changing. Regardless, the 10 years of aging certainly makes it pretty accessible to whiskey-loving palates.
On the nose, you’ll find aromas of sweet raisins, dried cherries, caramelized sugar, and charred oak. The barrel seems to have made baijiu’s famous funk into more of an aged-fruitiness. On the palate, you’ll be greeted with flavors of dark chocolate, butterscotch, sour cherries, brown sugar, and just a hint of wood char. The finish is long, warming, and ends with a nice final nutty sweetness, another baijiu trademark, that should appeal to the most ardent bourbon fans.
This expression comes in 375ml bottles and was made available at various retailers in extremely limited quantities. If you see it, grab it. You might never run into a bottle again and it certainly takes your palate in new directions while remaining true to certain Buffalo Trace touchstones.