Whiskey Nips: Same Recipe, Different Bourbon

Large distilleries can have multiples product offerings. You would think that it might get complicated making all those different products, but a lot of those products all start out with the same mash bill. Let’s take Buffalo Trace Distillery for example. Using 3 core mash bills, they offer over 25 different bourbons, ranging from under $20 to over $200. This is all thanks to some planning, as well as the magic of the barrel, and time.

If you have ever tasted bourbon straight from 2 barrels that were distilled and barreled on the same day, as well as aged next to each other, there’s a big chance that they would taste quite different even to the novice palate. The location in the warehouse, as well as age, factor into the flavor that comes out of a given barrel even more. Because of the variance in flavors, most bourbons in today’s market are not single barrel products, but rather batched together.

Core bourbon products such as Buffalo Trace, Four Roses Tan Label, Old Forester, and Wild Turkey, are a mix of tens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of barrels blended together. This helps to create consistency in flavor profiles. The distillers along with a tasting panel usually decide when a batch is at the taste profile they are looking for. For these products, there is a plan to take a certain amount of barrels from certain spots of the warehouse to create the profile they are looking for.

Master distillers and master tasters will notice trends in the flavors based on location. With their knowledge and palate, they can take these barrels and create a whole new product with a different flavor profile. One of my favorite examples of this is the Whiskey Row series from Old Forester. Focusing in on the 1870, 1897, 1920, and Statesman releases, these products are all the same mash bill as the standard Old Forester, but they all taste distinctly different. What makes the difference between these products is the age, warehouse location, and proof. Even though some products have the same mash bill, the magic of time and wood bring out a variety of flavors that can be used to make multiple unique products.


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Tony Freund