Buffalo Trace is the distillery behind some of the most rare and collectible American whiskeys you can find, like Pappy Van Winkle and the Antique Collection. But the Old Charter Oak series is another limited-edition set that aficionados should look out for, with each release utilizing barrels made from a different type of wood to mature the whiskey.
The latest entry in the Old Charter Oak series is called Spanish Oak Bourbon, which as you can guess from the name was matured entirely in Spanish oak. Most bourbon is aged in American oak barrels—while bourbon must be aged in new charred oak by law, there is no specification as to what type of oak has to be used (technically it can be a “container,” but it’s virtually always a barrel). The wood used to make the barrels for this new whiskey came from forests in northern Spain, and the trees were cut into staves that were seasoned outdoors before being fashioned into casks.
The point of using this type of wood is that, according to Buffalo Trace, American oak imparts softer flavors like vanilla and caramel into the whiskey, while Spanish oak (and European oak in general) is spicier and more tannic. Master distiller Harlen Wheatley explained it further in a press release: “American oak has higher proportions of vanillin and whiskey lactone, resulting in bourbon with a softer, sweeter taste and notes of vanilla and caramel,” he said. “Spanish oak, on the other hand, has more eugenol, meaning drier, spicier notes and flavors like clove are imparted onto the liquid. We specifically wanted to test Spanish oak as part of this collection because of its connection to sherry, which is known to be a nuttier, fruitier spirit.”
This is the fifth release in the Old Charter Oak series, with previous editions including Chinkapin Oak, Mongolian Oak, French Oak, and Canadian Oak. Like past releases, the bottle comes with an oak medallion on the front, and has a suggested retail price of $69.99. That, however, is probably wishful thinking because a quick look online reveals the previous French Oak release selling for a minimum of $340 and peaking at around $600. Old Charter Oak Spanish Oak Bourbon is just rolling out now to select markets around the country, so keep a watchful eye out if you want to score a bottle to try for yourself.