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Whiskey Draws Flavors from IR-Treated Oak Barrels

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Buffalo Trace Distillery has released its Experimental Collection of bourbon that used IR light to treat the aging barrels before they were charred. The IR-light experiment's goal was to learn how new and different flavors could be imparted from the oak barrels into the bourbon.

Working with barrel cooper Independent Stave Company in 2009, eight special barrels were constructed according to Buffalo Trace’s standard; wooden staves — individual planks — were open-air seasoned for six months before being made into barrels.
A bottle from Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Experimental Collection of bourbon, which underwent IR light treatment during the aging process.
A bottle from Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Experimental Collection of bourbon, which underwent IR-light treatment during the aging process. Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The barrels were divided into two groups and subjected to two levels of IR light waves. The first group of four barrels underwent 15 minutes of short- and midwave frequency at 70 percent power. The second group was subjected to 30 minutes of short- and midwave frequency at 60 percent power. The barrels were then given a quick No. 1 (or 15 seconds) char, before being filled with Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Mash #1.

After six and a half years of aging, the bourbon from both barrels expressed distinct flavor notes of wood, caramel and vanilla, as well as pepper flavors drawn from the oak. Another observation from the experiment was that the shortwave-IR light seemed to affect more of the inner layers of the wood, while the midwave-IR light affected the surface and medium layers.

Tasting notes described the 15-minute IR light barrels as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavor profile.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is family-owned and dates back to 1773. Its Warehouse X facility is designed to explore the extent of environmental influences on the flavor profiles of whiskey. For more information visit

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2016
BusinessAmericasIRinfraredlasersbuffalo traceKentuckyBiophotonicspreservationfoodalcoholTech Pulse

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