Single Oak Project, Buffalo Trace
In 1999, former Buffalo Trace warehouse manager Ronnie Eddins selected 96 American White Oak trees of differing coarseness and thickness from the Missouri Ozarks to be used in a very unique bourbon experiment.
Buffalo Trace's distillers sought to isolate and analyze a number of "variables" in the whiskey aging process in order to determine how different chemical compounds alter whiskey.
The 96 trees were fashioned into 192 barrels- one barrel from the top of each tree and one from the bottom. Staves cut from the wood were seasoned for different amounts of time (between 6-12 months). The barrels were charred with either a #3 char or a #4 char. Some barrels were filled with high rye whiskey; some were filled with wheated whiskey. Some of the whiskey entered the barrels at 125 proof; some whiskey entered at 105 proof. Finally, the barrels were left to age for 8 years in different types of warehouses - some barrels aged in warehouses with concrete floors and others aged in warehouses with wooden floors.
In 2011, Buffalo Trace began releasing "Single Oak Project" bourbons for purchase in the hopes that the public would comment on specific releases and their flavor profiles. Based on feedback, Buffalo Trace may or may not incorporate the practices which correlate with the tastiest bourbon.
The whiskey in barrel #52 was distilled in mid-December 2002 with a wheat mash bill and entered a #4 char barrel at 105 proof. The barrel was from the bottom of a tree with 18 growth rings/inch. It was aged in Warehouse K, which has a wood floor. Here's the review:
Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project (#52)
Buffalo Trace Distillery
$54 at Burris Liquors in Charleston, SC
Color: Burnt orange.
Nose: A spicy, peppery nose with toasted oak, and grass. There are cedar wood and tobacco notes, with a touch of vanilla to smooth it out, but overall a sharper aroma than I prefer.
Tasting Notes: Unlike most bourbons which start sweet and transition to heat, #52 is spicy up front, with a follow-on blast of caramel sweetness. The body is medium-light with earthy, tobacco and cedar wood lingering.
Overall: B. For all of the work and planning that went into the Single Oak Project, I was hoping for a unique and challenging sipping experience. This bourbon was pleasant, but not anything to write home about. Consider that you get half of a bottle of bourbon for $50+. You can do much, much better for a standard 750ml bottle at $100.