Buffalo Trace Distillery is nearing the end of its Single Oak Project, with just one more bourbon release to go after this, in what will be a four year study of seven different variables and how they affect taste.
This release features bourbons which were all aged in barrels with the same entry proof (105), same stave seasoning, aged in the same warehouse (concrete floor), and same char level (number three). All other variables, recipe (wheat or rye), grain size, and tree cut (top or bottom of the tree) vary.
“There are many variables to consider in this project but one of the most interesting to learn more about has been tree cut,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “There are four direct components that are related to wood that contribute to our bourbon flavor; hemicellulose, lignin, tannins, and the char layer. There are two major considerations when it comes to tree composition and location, and those are lignins and tannins. The top half of the tree tends to have more lignin, which contributes to the formulation of vanilla and vanilla flavor. The bottom half of the tree tends to have more tannins, which contributes to the formation of ellagic acids and tannic flavor. Tannic flavor leaves your mouth dry and delivers complexity or richness in texture.”
If past online votes are any indication, fans are all over the board when it comes to their favorite. Barrel # 82 retains its lead, but the other barrels in the top spots vary in char level, tree location, recipe and char level. The only thing it seems fans can agree upon at this time is the entry proof (105) and warehouse (rick warehouse.)
But it’s not too late to get in on the act and start reviewing, as there are no clear cut winners yet, and another release after this one to go before this project ends in the summer of 2015. More than 4,300 reviews have been given so far on www.singleoakproject.com.
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 floors 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 is being released in a series every three months from 2011 through 2015 until all of the 192 barrels have been released. The first release hit select stores in 2011. This fifteenth release will reach stores in December. Like all the other releases, the quantities are very limited. Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The fifteenth release is made up of barrel numbers 21, 22, 53, 54, 85, 86, 117, 118, 149, 150, 181, and 182. 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 Single Oak Project Bourbon and make more just like it, under the Single Oak name.