Whisky Advocate

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project: Round Two

August 2nd, 2011

The next round is being released this week. The variables focus on recipe, grain size, and char level. Details below in the press release. You can find my thoughts on the first release here. (Photo below is of Round One.)

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Buffalo Trace Distillery Releases Second Round of

Single Oak Project Bourbon

 Quest for the World’s Perfect Bourbon Continues   

 

FRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (August 2, 2011) – Round two of the critically acclaimed Single Oak Project is being released from Buffalo Trace Distillery this week, part of the Distillery’s “Holy Grail” project.

                This release will explore three important variables that affect the taste of bourbon, recipe, grain size, and char level.  Some of the bottles contain bourbon made with rye and others with wheat. The barrels themselves were made from different trees, each with varying degrees of thickness to their wood grain, from fine to very coarse. These barrels were charred at either a number three or number four char level to determine how the burn will alter the taste.  All other variables in the experimental project, such as the entry proof, stave seasoning, tree cut, and warehouse location remain constant.

                As with the first release, Buffalo Trace hopes consumers can rate each whiskey they taste online at www.singleoakproject.com. This feedback will help determine which type of bourbon connoisseurs prefer most. After reviewing a bottle online, consumers will be availed of all the aging details and provenance of the barrel. They can interact with others who’ve also reviewed the barrel, compare their reviews, and even learn for themselves which characteristics they enjoy most, in order to help them select future favorites.  Participants online will earn points after each review and most importantly, help Buffalo Trace Distillery create the perfect bourbon!

                The Single Oak Project is part of an intensive research project Buffalo Trace Distillery started conducting in 1999 by hand picking 96 trees with different wood grains and then dividing them into a top and bottom piece, yielding 192 unique sections. From there, staves were created from each section and were air dried for either 6 months or 12 months. After all the staves were air dried, a single barrel was created from each tree section, resulting in 192 total barrels. These barrels were given either a number three or a number four char and then filled with either wheat or rye recipe bourbon.

                To further the variety of experiments, the barrels were filled at two different proofs, 105 and 125 proof.  And if this wasn’t enough, two completely different warehouses were used, one with wooden ricks and one with concrete floors.  In total, seven different variables were employed in Buffalo Trace’s ultimate experiment.

                For eight years the Distillery continued with its tracking process, creating intricate databases and coming up with a potential of 1,396 tasting combinations from these 192 barrels!

                The Single Oak Project Bourbon will be released in a series every three months over the next four years until all of the 192 barrels have been released. The first release hit select stores at the end of May. This second release should show up in stores towards the end of August. Like the first release, the quantity is very limited. Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The second release is made up of barrel numbers 29, 31, 61, 63, 93, 95, 125, 127, 157, 159, 189, 191. All releases will be packaged in a 375ml bottle. Suggested retail pricing per bottle is $46.35.   

                At the conclusion of the Single Oak Project, the Distillery plans to take the top rated barrel based on online consumer feedback, make more of that product and launch it under the Single Oak Project nameplate.

8 Responses to “Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project: Round Two”

  1. Bob Siddoway says:

    I’m sad I didn’t even get to taste any of the Round 1 bottlings. The state liquor dispensary here is slow to get new products or limited release products through, which often leaves me buying online and being price gouged.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    Still have to get around to tasting the round 1 samples you sent me, John. The right time will probably come after my exhausting summer job ends. A focused state of mind seems necessary to get detailed readings on experimental bourbon.

  3. Hey Red – you can offload some of the work of tasting all those samples. I’ll help you carry the burden. :)

  4. Jeffrey Woolley says:

    This is really exciting to watch unfold. I have not tried any of these yet, though. This might be off topic a bit but I wanted to thank you, John, for informing the public about the Buffalo Trace Millennium Project. I am the Board President for a charity in WA and we received one of the bottles to auction off at one of our events. This will really help us and provide a lucky donor with a fine bourbon, too! Thanks.

  5. Jimmy says:

    I have an opportunity to buy one of these in San Francisco for 75 dollars – quite a mark up. That seems to me very high for 375ml of any bourbon, and the first round made me think this is really something of a gamble.

    So John, were the bottles you didn’t like from round one disappointing enough that you would kick yourself for dropping that kind of money, or were they drinkable enough that you could shrug it off and say “what ever serves the cause of bourbon research”?

    • Vince says:

      Jimmy

      I purchased two from round 1 and thought both were inferior bourbons. I will NEVER spend another dime on any of these bottles. Of course, others will have varying opinions, but fool me once…..well you know the rest

  6. Jinenjo says:

    I didn’t even take a risk to “get fooled” the first time. I admire BT whiskey a good deal, but the usual high entry proof and bottling proof of the white dog, let alone the price tag, kept me away.

    My personal theory runs along the lines that higher proofs when barreled makes for a less favorable whiskey, IMO.

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