Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Five

Haven’t had enough of the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project? Don’t worry, we’ve got three more years of it to go.

Round Five of this incredibly curious project is upon us, with 12 new Bourbon bottlings up for your consideration. This time out, the three variables being focused upon are recipe (rye vs. wheat — 6 of which are released in every round), entry proof (the alcohol level at which the whiskey goes into the barrel, either 105 or 125 proof), and wood grain size (tight, average, or coarse). All other variables are identical: barrel stave seasoning (level 6), warehouse type (wood in warehouse K), barrel char (#3), and tree cut (top half).

Notes are below, but some rough thoughts pop out. Most notably, the idea that higher entry proofs lead to better whiskeys (the theory being that alcohol ages better than water) didn’t pan out here. With one exception I rated the lower entry-proof whiskeys as better crafted (remember, though, all are bottled at 90 proof). This is oddly enough the exact opposite of the effect I saw in round 4, where higher entry-proof whiskeys scored better. Wood grain size didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Randomness in barrels? You better believe it.

There were a couple of ringer whiskeys here, including one super-spicy whiskey I would have swore was rye based (it was wheat), and a smooth operator I was sure was wheat (which was rye). Just goes to show that you can’t stereotype Bourbon based on the mashbill. In the end it’s the wood that really matters the most.

Need previous coverage or a baseline of what this experimental series is all about? Find it here:
Round One (including all the basics of the approach to this series)
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four

Curious which whiskeys are rated highest on the singleoakproject.com website? Barrels 10, 106, and 184 are in a tie for the lead. My ratings on those bottlings, respectively: A, B+, and B. Can’t wait to crunch some numbers on this when the final round (12) is over.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #1 – Orange and caramel notes, otherwise a relatively workmanlike Bourbon with plenty of vanilla going on. A bit bitter on the very end. B (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #17 – A sweeter style, but limited on nuance. Nothing wrong here, but it comes across more like a Canadian whisky, blended and young. B- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #33 – Another light style, sweet on the nose with a minty finish. Hints of chocolate, but not heavy enough to really bring much to the table. I’m not in love with the balance. B- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #49 – Burly, tastes like it has lots of rye (wrong!). Very grassy, but again a touch of mint. Balanced, complex. Plenty of vanilla to calm things down, with a lasting and warming finish. Curious coffee character. Favorite of the batch. A- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #65 – Skunky with sawdust notes on the nose, perhaps indicating a flaw with the barrel. The palate isn’t really off, though, offering a traditional (yet woodsy) vanilla character. C- (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #81 – Tea leaf is huge here, imparting a massive brewed tea character. Feels like a wheated Bourbon (it’s not), easygoing but without a lot of complexity. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #97 – Lots going on here. A bit of a mess, though. Smoky, with heavy wood overtones. Not a favorite. C+ (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #113 – I’m not in love with the wood-heavy nose but the body is pretty unique. Peaches and vanilla give it a dessert-like (cobbler?) finish that, unfortunately, is at odds with the aroma. B (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #129 – Very sweet up front, but that fades quickly. Again, lots of wood on the nose. B- (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #145 – Apricots and sherry on the nose, almost rum-like. Quite a complicated little surprise. The body is a little more traditional, with chewy vanilla caramels taking the lead. My #2 for the night. A- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #161 – Smells good, though heavy on wood. The body doesn’t take that anywhere, though. Lots of astringency on the finish. C+ (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #177 – Extremely mild nose, but lots of spice in the body. Woody, overall has a good balance. B (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, wood ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

$46 each (375ml bottle) / singleoakproject.com

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4 Responses to Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Five

  1. Pingback: Buffalo Trace Single Oak: The Unceremonious End - Scotch & Ice Cream

  2. Pingback: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project: The Unceremonious End - Scotch & Ice Cream

  3. Tasty #65 is.

  4. Pingback: Single Oak Project Project | RW&B

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