The Bourbon is crafted in the time-honored tradition unique to Bourbon starting with the Kentucky and Indiana corn, selected rye from and superior malted barley from North and South Dakota and Minnesota. Together these grains represent the unique mash bill a trade secret known only by those craftsmen responsible for producing this Bourbon whiskey. When the grain is delivered to the distillery, it undergoes a series of evaluations, including a general visual inspection for any obvious abnormalities. Bushel weight is then checked to ensure that the grain demonstrates the proper baseline characteristics. Finally a sample of the grain is tested in the distillery laboratory to determine if it meets their standards for moisture levels and chemical balance.
To prepare the newly received grains for the mashing process, they must first be milled to exactly the right specifications. Grain at Buffalo Trace Distillery are milled with a hammer mill using a screen that only allows particles of milled grain as large as 10/64 of an inch in diameter through. Itıs been found that this size screen called a #10, lets more of the true grain through to be part of the mash without compromising the integrity of the mash itself, so the distillery experienced over the years. The next larger screen would allow whole kernels of rye and barley through, and the next smaller screen would create too fine a grain, causing the mash to become too thick.
Mashing water fresh and rich with minerals from its natural filtration through Kentucky limestone is heated in a steam-powered pressure cooker. Once the water reaches the proper temperature, the corn is added and cooked under pressure until it is ready for the rye. After the addition of the rye, a malted barley slurry is added to the mixture, which allows its activated enzymes to turn the starch from the cooked grains into a soluble sugar. The new mixture is, at this point, a sweet mash.
After the mash has cooled, yeast is added with a small amount of previously fermented and distilled mash, also known as sour mash. The sugar present in the mash feeds the yeast to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The uniquely rich nutrients of the pure Kentucky limestone water used in this process also enrich the yeast. The whiskey undergoes a natural fermentation lasting anywhere from three to five days. At the end of this period, the liquid is known as beer and is 7.5% alcohol by volume.
The fermented mixture (or beer) complete with solids, enters the top of the beer still and descends through plates similar to a coffee percolator. Steam, pumped in from the bottom of the still, encounters the falling beer, creating an alcohol-rich vapor. The vapor is then recondensed and passed through a second still, known as a doubler, to create a crystal-clear liquid that, by law, can be no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume. For Buffalo Traceıs whiskey however, the final liquid is removed from the doubler at a significantly lower proof in order to preserve more of the flavour and characteristics of the grains. This liquid, which is commonly referred to as raw spirit or white dogı is then entered into newly charred, virgin white oak barrels. Consistent with out desire to optimize flavour and characteristics of the grains, we enter the white dog into the barrels at 125 proof.
Before Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is placed into barrels, the barrels themselves undergo a rigid inspection. Barrels to be used for Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey must be made from center rightı wood from trees typically 70 80 years old. This center ring falls between the outer ring, called sapwood, and the core of the tree. These standards for wood selection are more expensive, but they make for a finer whiskey. Also the grain of the wood is inspected for coarseness. Very fine wood grain results in immature whiskey that is weak and less flavorful. Grain that is too coarse leads to an excessive wood taste. Barrels also are reviewed for broken or cracked staves and open joints
White every step of the production process is important, Buffalo Trace Distillery believes the aging process is the greatest factor in producing truly outstanding whiskey. The distilleryıs best whiskey comes from aging in Warehouse C, K, and I and only on selected floors. These floors represent the middle floors in each of the warehouses and have the best temperature changes in the course of a year-the key to reaching full maturity and producing a balanced whiskey. Each of the warehouses has an earthen floor, which best allows nature to do its part in the aging process and produce truly outstanding whiskey. Additionally, steam pumped throughout the warehouses during the extreme cold of winter compensates for the dramatic drops in temperature and gives the whiskey additional cycles in and out of the wood.
Only the best Bourbon produced by the distillery is bottled. Approximately 30 35 barrels of aged whiskey are selected from the middle floors of Warehouses C I K. Samples from these barrels are reviewed by the distilleryıs tasting panel. If any one taster rejects a sample, the barrel it represents will not be used for the whiskey.
Whiskey from selected barrels is married and passed through a chill filtration process, lowering the temperature of the bourbon to below 30F. This process ensures that more of the colour and flavour naturally present in the Bourbon is maintained than does filtering through activated charcoal. The Bourbon is then reduced to 90 proof, its bottling proof, using water that has undergone reverse osmosis filtration. No other colours or flavours are added to the final product, a claim only Bourbon, among all whiskeys can made. Buffalo Traceıs bottles are then carefully filled, corked and sealed by hand and then packed for limited distribution.
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