Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Buffalo Trace Distillery Completes First Warehouse X Experiment and Releases Findings, 3.5 Million Data Points Captured


Warehouse X at Buffalo Trace Distillery
Buffalo Trace Distillery has completed phase one of its bourbon barrel aging experiment inside Warehouse X, the experimental warehouse built in 2013 that allows for specific atmospheric variables to be tested in four individual chambers, plus one open air breezeway.

The first experiment focused on natural light, keeping barrels in various stages of light for two years.

Chamber One of Warehouse X held barrels at 50% natural light, while matching the temperature of the barrels inside the chamber to the temperature of the barrels in the outdoor breezeway.

Barrels in Chamber Two experienced 100% darkness, while keeping the barrel temperature at a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chamber Three also had 100% darkness, but those barrel temperatures were kept the same temperature as the barrels in the outdoor breezeway.

Chamber Four barrels saw 100% natural light as the temperature was kept the same as the barrels in the outdoor breezeway.

In the two years this experiment was conducted, the barrels in the open air breezeway (which was not climate controlled) saw a fluctuation of temperatures ranging from -10 F to 105 F, likely some of the greatest temperature variance any bourbon barrels have ever experienced. The pressure inside these barrels varied from -2.5 psi to 2.5 psi.

Workers removing barrels following
the experiment's conclusion.
The team at Buffalo Trace collected and analyzed an astonishing 3.5 million data points. Among those learnings, an interesting correlation between light and psi was realized, and a long held distiller’s theory of more heat equaling higher proof was scientifically proven (at least for now).

However, another popular theory was disproved in part – as it turns out, the amount of light does not really affect the color or the proof of the bourbon inside the barrels. So much for the theory of honey barrels! But Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley has this to add about honey barrels, “Even though we proved light doesn’t affect the color or the proof of the whiskey, that doesn’t mean that honey barrels (those next to windows in standard warehouses that are typically distiller’s favorites) don’t taste a little bit better. Perhaps because of other factors than natural light.  We did prove factors like temperature, pressure, humidity and air flow all play a role in the end result.”  

Now that the light experiment is complete, Buffalo Trace is moving on to the next planned experiment, which focuses on temperature. In this experiment, the various chambers will experience different temperature variations, with Chamber One remaining the same temperature as the outdoor breezeway, plus 10 F.  Chamber Two will be 80 F, Chamber Three will be at 55 F and Chamber Four will be kept at the breezeway temperature minus 10 F.  The temperature experiment is expected to last at least two years.

For information about Warehouse X including a blog updated since the inception, visit http://www.experimentalwarehouse.com/  

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think I get what they are trying to say, but this is pretty poorly written. I know the word theory often is a synonym for assumption, but seems a poor choice when talking about experiments and downright wrong when saying it has been scientifically proven. And what the heck is "learnings"? It would be nice if they published the actual data, because, the way this is written, it's hard to determine what conclusions were made.

Jim Laminack said...

Interesting stuff and I am glad to see this sort of thing moving forward. Not a thing wrong with figuring out how to make a better bourbon. I can understand them not sharing their data as this should remain proprietary. As far as honey barrels being by the windows: barrels are impervious to light so I am not surprised to see that light has no effect. I would assume that barrels by the window would though receive more direct sun which should raise the temperature versus a barrel 10 feet away that does not get direct sun.

Richnimrod said...

...And, the closer a barrel is to that window, the quicker it cools as the night air has it's effect. I believe the temperature fluctuations are the main ingredient. As the pressure changes inside, the Bourbon inside is forced into, then pulled out of the wood, passing through the barrel char and that wonderful 'red layer'. No expert, just using the ole noodle.

Zeke said...

Howdy!

And three isn't anything "astonishing" about 3.5 million pieces of data. That's just noting abv, air pressure, color and amount of light once per hour for all five sections of Warehouse X for two years.

Tommy tom said...

Interactions are the beauty of a multi factor / multi level experimental designs. The voice of God can be heard in the discovery of higher order interactions.

Dave Zanko said...

Actually, using "theory" in reference to experiments is totally correct. And especially when discussing things proven. "Theory", properly speaking, is synonymous with the word "explanation". So a theory as to why something happens is an explanation based on prior knowledge. Proving a theory means that subsequent evidence matched what one would expect based on the theory. So in this case Chuck was using it correctly.