Peated whiskies can be among the most divisive categories in the spirits world. Some drinkers can’t get enough of the smoke, brine, and iodine notes that typically result from burning peat to dry the barley grain during the malting process. Others, however, prefer milder, fruitier profiles of non-peated single malt Scotch. Popular in the Islay region of Scotland, peated whisky has made its way to the States in recent years with the influx of American single malts. Now, one of the giants of the bourbon world has applied the concept to its own corn-based whiskey as part of its Experimental Collection.
As opposed to single malt Scotch, which is entirely made from malted barley, straight bourbon must contain a mashbill of at least 51% corn by law. The rest of the grain can, and usually is, a combination of rye, wheat, and malted barley. Since 2006, Buffalo Trace has been thinking outside the box with its Experimental Collection while still performing within the confines of bourbon regulations. With its 26th release in the series, the Kentucky-based distillery features its traditional high-rye mashbill, but uses peated malt instead of standard malted barley. Led by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, the Peated Bourbon was aged for 10 years before being bottled at 90 proof, showcasing a smoky and nutty profile with notes of leather, mahogany, and cacao beans, along with brown butter and toffee imparted by the peat smoke.
While quite common among Scotch whiskies, peat is notably rare in the bourbon world. You have distilleries like Kings County, as well as some other more obscure labels, who have released peated bourbon in the past. But to have a brand as big as Buffalo Trace exposing its grain to peat smoke is a big deal and has the potential to affect an industry that, over the past few years, has been trying to find some new innovations that will stick.
Arriving this month in limited 375mL bottles, the Experimental Collection: Peated Bourbon will retail for around $47. Head to Buffalo Trace’s website to learn more.