The average bourbon drinker who has just ordered two fingers of booze at the bar may not think much about this, but it’s true: much of that flavor that makes it worth savoring comes from trees—and in this case, we’re talking about the mighty oak tree.
Buffalo Trace Distillery decided it was time to celebrate the role oak plays in curing great spirits by issuing editions dedicated to different types and calling it the Old Charter Oak series. They began with Mongolian Oak and have just released the newest installment, Old Canadian Oak Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Here’s the origin story for this edition: Buffalo Trace acquired a limited number of barrels from Canada. They topped them off with the mash they also use to make their Eagle Rare, among other bourbons. Then they let it sit for 10 years.
And what’s the difference between regular oak and oak from the forests of Canada? According to Buffalo Trace, “Canadian oak trees differ from American oak trees in that they are harder and have a tighter grain structure, which affects the bourbon as it ages.”
According to Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley, that difference in grain “allows the whiskey to penetrate more layers in the wood, but it does take it longer to do it. So the longer the bourbon ages, the more flavor can be extracted.”
This is the third release after French Oak and Buffalo Trace is by no means done—they say they will put out new editions “a few times each year, indefinitely,” with the next to follow in early 2020.
The distillery’s tasting notes for Canadian Oak say “It might come across as caramel, berries, vanilla, syrup” or “chocolatey, peppery, oaky.” All of which sounds pretty damn appealing.
Every bottle in the Old Charter Oak line will have a distinctive oak medallion on the front and while Buffalo Trace notes that “the different oak varieties released over the years will have different price points, all in a similar range,” their suggested retail price for the 92 proof Canadian Oak—which is out this month—is $69.99.