Buffalo Trace Releases Ninth Round of Single Oak Project Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Distillery releases the ninth round of the Single Oak Project Bourbon and with it some interesting perspectives from the top two consumer reviewers.     

In this ninth release, all of the bourbons that comprise this release entered the barrel at 125 proof, aged within the concrete walls and floors of Warehouse L, with a number three barrel char after the staves were seasoned for six months.  This allows the release to focus on three other variables, the recipe, wood grain size, and tree cut.  All of the other variables such as aging warehouse, entry proof, char level, and stave seasoning remain constant. 

So far, more than 2,481 industry expert and consumer reviews have been logged online at www.singleoakproject.com and barrel number 106 continues to remain at the top, for now.  It has battled for that top spot with barrel number 97 for the past several months, but currently retains its lead as the consumer favorite.

Two of the top consumer reviewers of the Single Oak Project, both of them members of the MAD Oak Apostles tasting club in Madison, Wis., have shared their insights into what they’ve learned so far on the Single Oak Project.

Michael Dereszynski, who is the organizer of the Mad Oak Apostles, is the leader for number of barrels reviewed and says what he enjoys most about the Project is the learning, “It made me more aware and appreciative of what comes out of a bottle, as well as the discipline needed in analyzing a series of samples. It became a project within the Project for me to hone these skills.”

Dereszynski also learned that he prefers wheated recipe bourbons over rye recipe bourbons, saying, “Before the Project started, had you asked me, I would have said my recipe preference was rye, not wheat. But after compiling my reviews, apparently I favor the wheat.” He adds, “I prefer a wheated recipe at 105 entry proof, no preference in top or bottom of the tree or the char level, but seasoned staves for 12 month and stored in a concrete floored warehouse.” Dereszynski’s favorite barrel so far is #56, which scored a “91” rating by Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2013.  

Scott Reich, who is the second place reviewer of the most barrels, was surprised at how much he enjoyed wheated bourbons as well.  “I tried one wheat recipe bourbon a few years ago in a tasting that included several rye recipe bourbons. I found the wheated bourbon to be quite bland, so have tended to avoid them ever since.” Now according to Reich’s reviews, he’s been surprised to find that while 58% of his favorites in the Single Oak Project are rye recipe, 42% are wheat recipe.

“It’s gratifying to hear the knowledge consumers are gaining from their reviews. Not only is it helping us to create the perfect bourbon, it’s helping them learn more about their taste preferences and what the different effects like aging environment or proof entry can have on a bourbon,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director.

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 ninth release will reach stores towards the end of May. Like all the other releases, the quantities are very limited. Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The ninth release is made up of barrel numbers 5, 6, 37, 38, 69, 70, 101, 102, 133, 134, 165, and 166.  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.


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