Turkey vultures and buzzards have a keen sense of smell. According to Zoologist Gary Graves “[Buzzards]…track plumes of odor. They go ‘upstream’ to the densest part of the olfactory gradient–it gets stronger and stronger–until they find the source.” This is kind of the path that master distillers and master tasters take as they follow their own sense of smell to pick out their best barrels of whiskey at just the right time.
Such is the case with Buzzard’s Roost Whiskey located in Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky. Buzzard’s Roost launched its first rye whiskey in 2019, and has since released multiple rye expressions, including Very Small Batch, Single Barrel, Barrel Strength, Toasted Barrel and Peated Barrel. This week, they are celebrating their first bourbon whiskey release.
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10 Steps: The Fundamentals of How to Taste Whisky
Buzzard’s Roost is the brainchild of Judith Hollis Jones, Phil Whaley and Jason Brauner. Brauner has a nose for whiskey as the founder of Bourbons Bistro in Louisville, Kentucky. Since opening his bar and restaurant in 2005 Brauner has had an active single barrel program allowing him to work side-by-side with many of Kentucky’s leading master distillers. He’s taken his passion and palate and gone one step further from just selling whiskey to making whiskey.
Buzzard’s Roost value proposition is they take fully aged, sourced bourbon and rye whiskies and re-barrel it for approximately 90 days using a second barrel created using specific seasoning, toasting and charring methods. They work with industry leading barrel maker Independent Stave Company and their Director of Spirit Research and Innovation Andrew Wiehebrink. Together, they have developed a proprietary batch of barrel finishing techniques to come up with Buzzard’s Roost.
What Makes Buzzard’s Roost 2nd Barrel So Unique?
“We have a propriety process to treat our barrels,” said Brauner. “We’ve built a huge taste profile that we’ve worked on for over three years. It’s really cool what we can bring ‘to’ the barrel and what we can ‘leave behind’. And its through basically time, temperature, and type of heat. I’ve worked with Andrew non-stop to develop the flavors that I want.”
The full details of how Buzzard’s Roost seasons their barrels is guarded like Col. Sanders 11 herbs and spices recipe. That said, he did share quite a bit.
For the second barrel Buzzard’s Roost uses full size 53 gallon barrels that have been toasted and charred.
“We use a No. 1 char with our custom toasting. Some are toasted longer than you might think using several different types of heat including radiant heat, gas open flame and wood fired flame,” said Brauner. The toasting process is part of the secret herbs and spices.
An Oak Whiskey Barrel Has 3 Flavor Drivers
Depending on who you ask the barrel used in making whiskey provides all the amber color and between 50 and 75% of its flavor.
According to Andrew Wiehebrink of Independent Stave Company there are three main flavor drivers from oak barrel maturation.
“It all starts with seasoning,” says Wiehebrink. “Buzzard’s Roost barrels are seasoned a minimum of 18 months as opposed to the industry standard six months. The longer the seasoning the more tannins are removed from the staves. The removal of tannins can reduce the harshness of the whiskey. In addition, up to 20% more extractives are available for driving flavors.”
For a whiskey to legally be called a bourbon it must be aged in a new charred oak container. There is no legal standard for the char level, it varies by distillery or by product but for the most part a No. 4 char is the industry standard.
“Buzzard’s Roost uses a No. 1 char,” explained Wiehebrink. “It may come as a surprise to most folks but utilizing a lower char we get more color, you extract twice as fast and we end up with more flavor. As it happens, the heavier the char the less flavor you end up with. The lower char is a huge differentiator.”
“We are very proud of our first Bourbon and thrilled to launch it at our new home, Bardstown Bourbon Company,” says Buzzard’s Roost Co-founder and CEO Judy Hollis Jones. “We started Buzzard’s Roost with a focus on creating exceptional whiskies using pioneering techniques and our team has used a great deal of finesse to create a Bourbon that is like no other.”
Buzzard’s Roost Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey Tasting Notes
Buzzard’s Roost Bourbon is a four-year-old barrel-strength 114.4 proof (57.2 ABV) blend of two rye-based mash bills aged at least four to six years. The mash bill is a blend of MGPs 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley and their 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley mash bill.
According to Brauner the nose is powerful and offers caramel, dark chocolate, and baking spices with a hint of perfectly seasoned oak, backed up with orange peel, dark fruit and aging tobacco. The palate gives way to an explosion of sweetness highlighted by vanilla and coconut at the mid-palate, accompanied by a rich blast of maraschino cherry and citrus. The finish is a perfect balance of structure and heat.
As Buzzard’s Roost Whiskey has grown it moved its distillery operations to Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky. All of their ryes and bourbons will now be aged and bottled in Bardstown.
Buzzard’s Roost Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey is available now throughout Kentucky and Massachusetts with a suggested retail price of is $84.99 for a 750mL bottle.
FACTOID: “[A buzzard has] one of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom but what its owner seeks is no pungent bed of roses, in fact quite the opposite… Their sense of smell is so acute that they can even locate hidden food, say something as small as a dead rat under a pile of leaves.”
Buzzard’s Roost Whiskey Song Live
You know you’ve arrived when your brand has its own song. This was performed live by Ryan Necci and the Buffalo Gospel Band at the launch party for Buzzard’s Roost Bourbon Whiskey. Enjoy!