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View Full Version : Buffalo Trace earthiness - what introduced it?



MikeK
05-21-2010, 07:26
Many people find an 'earthiness' to BT products. Put more simply, the flavor of soil, or what one might imagine soil tastes like from after working in the garden for a few hours. My buddy Arthur identifies this component as 'crayon wax'.

Over the years, I never knew what people were talking about, I didn't taste it. But over the last year or two, I find that almost every BT product I have had (except the older BTAC) seems to have this flavor. Even the baby-saz has picked it up.

I did read an older post from Ken Weber that claimed BT intentionally sought and created that profile for the then new BT bourbon.

Does anyone know what BT changed a number of years back to introduce this flavor? Did they change yeast? Something else?

I'm really curious to understand what part of the process would create this flavor. I'm also curious to see how many people out there either like it or do not.

I'm a huge fan of BT (and have the brick to prove it) but I don't care for this flavor component and am very sad that I no longer care for so many of my favorite whiskies.

Cheers!

sjoerd972
05-21-2010, 08:41
Hi Mike,

I'll try to look it up tonight. There is a Dutch writer who has done a book on the chemistry in whisky, and it most likely handles this flavor too.

Although it is focussed mostly on Single Malt Scotch, I reckon the chemical cause of this bit of flavor is similar, since, apart from 'details' bourbon is also a cereal distillate matured in wood.

I kind of dig those earthy tones, in my coffee, wine or whisky, but I can imagine someone not liking it.

doubleblank
05-21-2010, 09:19
That's interesting that you're finding the mustiness/earthiness in current releases. I detected it (to the level of dislike) in multiple bottles of standard BT several years ago and stopped buying it. But last night I had a pour of BT ($3.50 you-call-its at a local bar) and found the earthiness almost non-existent. I usually don't get it in RHF, but do detect it in Blanton's on occasion. Definitely a "house" characteristic. But I've only found it unpleasant in standard BT so far.

Randy

Hawg73
05-21-2010, 10:23
That taste is why I won't buy Buffalo Trace any more. I find it very unappealing, almost moldy to my taste.

DeanSheen
05-21-2010, 11:51
The last bottle of BT I had was downright butterscotchy with no earthy taste. I was surprised. I agree with Randy that the earthiness seems most prevalent in Blantons but I like that note.

OTOH I think Oscar is right when he talks about grassiness. I tend to taste more grass in BT than earth and I'm not as fond of that flavor note.

OscarV
05-21-2010, 12:11
What is suprising to me is that Buffalo Trace has a stable of labels but wants them all to share this grassy taste.
Anything with a distict taste they discontinue it.
I don't get it.

A few years ago The Michigan Bourbon Hounds went to a BT sponsored tasting and it was there that I found this sameness.
We tried 6 or 8 different brands and they were all just different variations of liquid grass.

OscarV
05-21-2010, 12:16
Ah, but the ogiginal question was, "what introduced it?".
All I can say is that from what I hear the taste of bourbon comes from 25% yeast, 25% mashbill and 50% from the barrell.
I think yeast is very important, maybe BT's yeast is funky, it happens to the best of them, like Jim Beam for example.

MikeK
05-21-2010, 12:57
Just had some baby Saz I bought about a year ago (just opened it, so it is not a stale bottle). It has the same flavor component I'm talking about. I can see where some people call it mustiness and others taste grass. This bottle is quite different than the first year or so when the baby Saz came out. That first run was remarkably fresh and spicy. The newer Saz has what appears to be the BT house flavor which is more closed off and musty. I also find this new flavor mutes the things I loved about standard BT, AAA, etc.

And yes, the question remains, what on 'earth' generates this flavor? And since BT seems to be doing this on purpose, why? I vote for weird yeast.

Cheers,

sjoerd972
05-21-2010, 13:17
According to the 'whisky chemistry' book by Robin Brilleman, the earthy taste in whisky comes from the use of slightly peaty water in the mash.

Peaty water usually means they use water from a non-spring, non tap source like a creek, a lake or something like that.

However, according to the BT website, they use water filtered through limestone and extra filtered at the distillery. It doesn't say it is springwater, but my guess is that is gets as close to that as it can.

So, in the end, chemistry is not the answer apparently. I have emailed Buffalo Trace with this as well, hoping they can explain it to me without any marketing BS.

If new stuff comes up, I'll post it.

sjoerd972
05-21-2010, 13:25
O, and if anything. Yeast would be the best guess. That causes most of the flavors during brewing at different temperatures. It can cause any range of flavors (from fruity, grassy and flowers and as far as meaty smells and flavors).

Mind, this is the case in Scotch. But my guess is it can cause the same flavors and smells in Bourbon...

bourbonv
05-21-2010, 13:33
If you like the musty/earthy flavor in Buffalo Trace products, you will get some more of it in bottles, probably in next year. The Kentucky River flooded the distillery a couple of weeks ago and that will give them plenty of that mustiness in the whiskey from the warehouses most effected by the flood.

MIke Veach

OscarV
05-21-2010, 13:37
Maybe BT should move out of the city and go to the country.

So if it ain't the yeast maybe it's the city sewer water.

cowdery
05-21-2010, 15:04
Does anyone detect it in the Weller products? I don't.

It's usually attributed to the distillery's proximity to the river.

OscarV
05-21-2010, 15:05
No, the recent Weller bottles to me are just boring but no grass.

jburlowski
05-21-2010, 15:10
No earthiness in Rain vodka.
:lol:

ErichPryde
05-21-2010, 16:15
If you like the musty/earthy flavor in Buffalo Trace products, you will get some more of it in bottles, probably in next year. The Kentucky River flooded the distillery a couple of weeks ago and that will give them plenty of that mustiness in the whiskey from the warehouses most effected by the flood.

MIke Veach

Mike brings up something that should certainly be considered. Wood wicks water very very well, and oak barrels are a semipermeable membrane.

CorvallisCracker
05-21-2010, 16:28
Mike brings up something that should certainly be considered. Wood wicks water very very well, and oak barrels are a semipermeable membrane.

I have to ask: How much water would wet wood wick, if wet wood would wick water?

ratcheer
05-21-2010, 16:36
I have noted, in the past, a distinct earthiness in some Wild Turkey bottlings, but I have never noticed it in any BT product. Especially not in Blanton's, which I have always found to be one of the cleanest tasting bourbons of any. However, I have not had a new bottle of Blanton's in several years.

Tim

whskylvr
05-21-2010, 17:33
When you make a wine near a Eucalyptus Grove!!
How does the Eucalyptamint nose and flavor get into the wine.

Maybe the same way earthiness or mustiness gets into bourbon???

We have had question concerning Eucalyptus in certain wines. Does the Eucalyptus oil get into the soil and through the grapes or does the oil travel through the air and somehow get onto the barrel and then get inside? This is a debate the wine people up in Napa have thats on-going.

Picker22
05-21-2010, 20:11
The first bottle of BT I purchased a couple years ago was so musty I poured it out (thought it had cork rot). Like doubleblank, I was at a bar recently and the bourbon selection was slim. I thought I would give BT another try and it wasn't too bad. I went ahead and purchased a bottle, and it was definitely not as musty as the first bottle I bought. Although it did not dissapoint like the first time, I probably won't be buying it again.

I am really liking Weller Antique and don't notice any similarities to BT.

cowdery
05-21-2010, 20:41
I have to ask: How much water would wet wood wick, if wet wood would wick water?

Nicely played...

T Comp
05-22-2010, 11:39
Does anyone detect it in the Weller products? I don't.


I'll add Elmer T. Lee (Binny's and 90Th bottling). No earthiness, must or grass, at least from these single barrels, just plenty of fruit and spice.

SBOmarc
05-22-2010, 13:59
I fail to detect it in any of the recent bottles of Saz Jr, ETL and BT or Blanton's. I miss it and would like to know why the profile has changed.

pepcycle
05-22-2010, 17:31
I think this is more of wood sourcing issue than anything else.
Consider if you will that all oak must season before its coopered.
There are many chemical components that are usually not mentioned, like lactones, both Cis and Trans that impart an earthy component.

Add Eugenols, hemicelluloses, guaicaols, tannins and you can easily see how variouis oak sources coudl vary and provide more or less of the following: Clove, vanilla, sugars, earthy, cocoa, butterscotch, smoke, dryness etc.

Its the wood!!

bourbonv
05-25-2010, 07:46
The barrels do not need to get wet. Flooding the bottom floor of the warehouse can allow mold and such get into to whiskey on higher levels. The barrel is taking in air at the same time as it is releasing the angel's share.

Mike Veach

Gillman
05-25-2010, 12:28
Whatever the cause, I find the taste is departing from the BT products. In the last couple of years, products bought locally (Frankfort, Bardstown, Louisville) show no sign of it. I don't mind the taste if it's only a light accent - falls into the category of house flavor - but I don't like it when too strong.

Gary

Jono
05-25-2010, 12:51
Another possible suspect

http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jbb/100/2/100_178/_article

Identification of 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) Causing a Musty/Muddy Off-Flavor in Sake and Its Production in Rice Koji and Moromi Mash


Atsushi Miki1), Atsuko Isogai1), Hitoshi Utsunomiya1) and Hiroshi Iwata1)

1) National Research Institute of Brewing

IF whiskey can also be exposed to this chemical it "may" be related to the taste....cork contamination.

http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/corked-liquor

Discussion re "corked" Evan Williams SB.

Poster Andrew Hall notes:

"The chemical (2,4,6 trichloroanisole - TCA) can get in the process of production or bottling with no literal cork involved. When certain fungi encounter chlorophenols, you can get TCA. These fungi are naturally present and chlorine bleach products can interact with them to produce TCA. I've had "corked" carrots and other produce. I have regularly encountered TCA in restaurant water or tea. Also non-food products. It is detectable in the part-per-trillion range so it just takes a minute amount."

Rotgut
05-27-2010, 14:33
Interesting topic.

Just yesterday I bought a bottle of ER. Nose was fine, taste was fine, finish was musty. I couldn't finish a small drink. I don't get grass at all. What I got reminded me of a swamp, or the smell my water gets in the summer if it sits for a few days.

I took the bottle back and exchanged it. I thought I got an off bottle, but maybe this is the issue. My initial impression was of a product made with stale swamp water.

The new bottle was fine - I chose one with a different manufacturing code printed along the bottom.

To get back on topic, I'd also love to know what is changed and why.
Mike

Rotgut
05-27-2010, 14:34
No earthiness in Rain vodka.
:lol:


Heeeee!

Makes my day.

Rotgut
05-27-2010, 14:38
If you like the musty/earthy flavor in Buffalo Trace products, you will get some more of it in bottles, probably in next year. The Kentucky River flooded the distillery a couple of weeks ago and that will give them plenty of that mustiness in the whiskey from the warehouses most effected by the flood.

MIke Veach

Wouldn't they weed those barrels out if they don't match the flavor profile?

I don't really know how the process works, so I'm just guessing. I don't imagine they'll taste each barrel when it's ready for sale, but wouldn't a representative of sample be tested per batch?

Thanks,

Mike

pepcycle
05-28-2010, 09:47
They don't sample every barrel in a batch.

They may pull a few from a production run, storage location, age and kind of assume that the rest of the barrels are the same.

It works.

cowdery
05-28-2010, 13:40
They don't sample every barrel in a batch.

They may pull a few from a production run, storage location, age and kind of assume that the rest of the barrels are the same.

It works.

A batch is about 50 barrels, all distilled on the same day and stored together. They'll sample one representative barrel in the batch. Every barrel is nosed right before it is dumped, just to make sure it hasn't been contaminated. Then the bottling batch, mixed together in the tank (except with single barrel products) is sampled and adjusted as necessary.