With construction work on Anvil moving ahead at a feverish pace, I have found it next to impossible to sit down and string together a post for months. The blog updating which Bobby and I hoped would continue with one or two posts a week has been traded for refining countless details at Anvil. Thankfully Bobby has been able to keep writing a little, while I on the other hand have stopped writing, shaving, and maintaining any professional appearance whatsoever.

Recently however, I found a moment to sit down and start going through the pile of beer and spirit tasting notes that I have in my note book. As the weather is trying to grow colder, (this is Houston, after all) I find myself opting for darker and heavier options. Whiskey has always been one of my favorite spirits to consume in any way I can get it, and it just happens to work out that the bar just down the street from Anvil, Poison Girl, has one of the best bourbon and American whiskey selections in town. On one recent trip, I was fortunate enough to drink my fill of one of the most limited and interesting whiskeys on the market; the Buffalo Trace Experimental 8 Year Cab Franc Finished Whiskey. Because I am a lazy blogger, I like to abbreviate this name with BTX for Buffalo Trace Experimental.

Whiskey is, by its simplest definition, a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash then aged in a wood cask. There are six major whiskey producing regions in the world; Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, Japan and Wales. The Japanese and Welch whiskeys are fighting an uphill battle for international respect, and others, like India, are vying for positions as additional significant players. American and Scotch whiskeys are the most subdivided. Scotch is recognized by 5 or 7 regions (depends on who you ask).

American whiskeys are a little less strait forward being divided by region and styles. The 5 major types of American whiskeys are Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey and Straight Whiskey (Which can make it confusing because you can have a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey… or just Straight Whisky which are not the same thing). Buffalo Trace by tradition and reputation is a generally recognized as a bourbon distillery. In 1964 the U.S. Congress recognized Bourbon Whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States and established a list of legal guidelines for the production Bourbon Whiskey. Bourbon must be:

-Made of a grain mixture consisting of more than 51% corn

-Distilled to no more than 160 proof

-100% natural including no artificial flavors or colors

-Aged in new charred American White Oak barrels

-No higher than 125 proof when introduced to the barrel

The production process for Bourbon is fairly straight forward; a mash of selected grains (most commonly about 70% corn) is allowed to ferment, this low alcohol mixture is called the wash. The wash is then distilled yielding a clear spirit that is then put in the barrel to age anywhere from 2 to 25 years. There is almost an endless amount of modifications that can be made to the production process to create unique and distinctive whiskeys. The experimental collection is as the name suggests a series of very small batch experiments that buffalo trace has been working on for the past two decades. The notable modification in the aforementioned whiskey is the finish in Cab Franc Barrels. The word finish in reference to bourbon means the movement of the bourbon from the white oak barrel to another cask or barrel. By finishing the spirit in a second barrel the whiskey can take on a world of different flavors and nuances. The finishing process is what makes the BTX line so intriguing. While finishing in a second barrel adds a lot to the bourbon it comes at a cost; increased product loss (angel share) and increased time. The action of pouring the bourbon from one barrel to another increases the amount of product lost. The dry second barrel will eagerly drink up at least some of the whiskey over the first year or so. Second; in order to take full advantage of the second barrel, the bourbon must spend at least a few more years in the barrel house. Because the second barrel in this case is used it will take it longer to give up its flavors. The BTX whiskeys are the most notable in the recent trend in the industry toward new (or very old) variations of traditional whiskey.


This might be the most badass label I have ever seen on any bottle of booze ever. It’s badassness comes from the fact that is all business and no bull. You have to remember that these are very limited single barrel runs meant as an experiment in both production methods and consumer taste. The label has all the information an enthusiast would need to understand how the bourbon was made and what factors affected its taste. The label gives the following information; The type of spirit: Whiskey, The total amount of production: 1 barrel, The date it was distilled: 7/2/90, Date barreled: 8/19/98, Recipe: BT Rye Mash #1, Mash type: Sour, Still proof: 140, Entry proof: 126.5, Warehouse/Floor: I/1, Rack/Row/Slot: 0/0/2, Barrel Type: French Oak Cab Franc, Maker: Barrel Associates, Staves: 6 mouth air dry, Treatment: medium toast, Bottled: 2/26/07, Age at bottling: 16 years, Evaporation: 43.oo%, Filtration: chill filtration, bottle proof 43% ABV – 91 proof. At the bottom of the bottle the distiller gives a brief tasting note. The only issue I have with the label is the ambiguity with the barrel description. When the label talks about the maker, the treatment, and the staves is it describing the new white oak or the finish cab franc cask?

In this tasting I had a shot of the cab franc 8 and 6 next to each other. They are made with a rye mash that adds a very hot spiciness. Although it is called an 8 year, it was really 16 years old when it was bottled, the bourbon spent 8 years in new oak and 8 in the cab franc cask. The deepest difference between the two was the alcoholic heat and the rye flavor. You can really taste the 2 extra years on the 8; it is much smoother despite noticeably more rye flavor. In the 8 year, the color of the more than generous 2 once pour was a deep reddish brown amber. The nose is all about the rye and wine, you can really get the cab in the nose; however, if I didn’t know it was a cab franc finish, I would have just called it a dark fruit. It is more than drinkable and is really smooth; but there is less wine on the palate, the oak is lost to the wine cask flavor. The 6 while hotter is heavier on the wine, the 8 is smoother but more about the rye. The mouth feel is smooth round and buttery. Both the 6 and 8 years were made with the same rye mash. Personally, I think a wheat heavy mash would have allowed the wine to come more to the front, but then again this stuff is called experimental for a reason. We are going to do our best to try and carry as many future releases of the BTX collection at Anvil in the future, so you will be able to weigh in with your own opinions.

One of my favorite things about whiskey is the protracted length between conception and introduction of a new product. Because my favorite whiskeys generally spend at least 7 years or so in the barrel (this number can grow very quickly when you start talking about second barrel finishing), the time between a distillers initial conception of the experiment and the final bottling of a commercial ready product can be as long as 3 to 4 decades. That is why the BTX bottles are so exciting – it gives you a glimpse into the creative and evolving world of American whiskey. We might see a mass release of the BTX products, but it may not be for 15 or 20 more years, the experimental release is a glance in to the world of gut feeling and wild ideas that are the foundation of innovation in what is a classic American spirit.


  1. neverfull says:

    you guys are pure badassness. looking forward to trying BTX & other badass cococtions @ anvil.

  2. Sylvan says:

    There are 4 barrel descriptions and 2 of them are wine, so I’d say all 4 are the wine barrel. ‘Medium toast’ is a wine treatment; as you noted above, bourbon barrels are charred. I’d guess the bourbon barrel is more standardized at Buffalo Trace.

  3. Kevin says:


    Thanks for the input, I guess that would make sense. The only other aspect of the cab barrel that I wonder about is the amount of use it got before it was used in this experiment.

  4. Jefffrane says:

    I hate you. I can’t stress that enough. I sincerely hate you. It’s only by the blindest of luck and occasional kindness from Binnys that I can even lay hands on bottles from the Antique Collection and you’re drinking Buffalo Trace whiskies I’ve never even heard of.

    It’s just not fair.

  5. Robert Heugel says:

    We still love you…

  6. libs says:

    didnt kev write this weeks ago??? its good.. i like that he admits he is a lazy bogger.. and at least he puts caps in the right place. see you guys soon.

  7. Charming Femme says:

    Mmmmm Whiskey.

    I wish I would’ve known these things when I went to Poison Girl that one time. Kevin, you’re a good blogger. You should write more often, get off your lazy blogging ass.

    I’ll make it to Anvil when the time is right. Congrats boys.

  8. DBlank says:

    I’m just curious. In your blog you mention that a list of legal guidelines for the production of Bourbon Whiskey included “-No higher than 125 proof when introduced to the barrel”. But, the label from the BTX shows an entry proof of 126.5. Does that mean this isn’t a “true” bourbon whiskey or do rye whiskeys not have the same guidelines?

    Thanks for all the insight into the world of cocktails. I am a bourbon fan myself but have only been able to attend scotch whiskey tastings so far.

  9. Jason says:

    The 125 proof requirement is for newly distilled whiskey (white dog) going into a bourbon barrel. 126.5 proof after 8 years in the bourbon barrel likely means that the whiskey went in at well below the 125 proof requirement. If the proof of the white dog is too high, it can have adverse effects on the flavors it gains from aging, basically it takes a little bit too much from the wood. That would be different than an already aged whiskey going into a new barrel, as it isn’t a blank slate at this point.

  10. whiskey says:

    mmmm nom nom nom . im drunk off some whiskey right now ;D

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