Buffalo Trace Distillery, UK study oak trees used for bourbon barrels

By Rachel Nix, Building Kentucky

The oak barrel gives Kentucky bourbon much of its signature flavor,  so Buffalo Trace is digging into how to grow better oak trees.

Buffalo Trace Distillery and the University of Kentucky partnered to study the genetic response of trees from various regions and different white oak forest establishment techniques.

About the White Oak Initiative

The White Oak Initiative is a 15-year research project that will include planting 1066 trees on the farm at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Parent trees from across the country are being planted to research the best practices for establishing white oak seedlings.

The bourbon business is dependant on white oak to continue its current boom. Sustainability and conservation are also of concern.

“We’re excited to partner with UK on this project. It’s important that we look towards the future and how we can contribute to the sustainability of the white oak industry,” said Dennis Walsh, homeplace manager of Buffalo Trace Distillery. “The project will also assess the cost per board foot required to maintain a sustainable supply of new white oak long into the future.”

Buffalo Trace is considering adding tours in the future of its farm, which would include education about its participation in the White Oak Initiative. In the future, Buffalo Trace may be able to use some of the oak trees it has planted for barrel experiments.

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