Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Seven

The Buffalo Trace “Single Oak Project” experiment continues! This month we look at the seventh round of these unique, single-barrel Bourbons as we work to figure out what characteristics, exactly, make for the very best Bourbon.

Previous rounds can be found here:

Round One (including all the basics of the approach to this series)
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five
Round Six

This round considers the effect of recipe (rye vs. wheat, which so far has been tested in every round), stave seasoning (level 6 or 6 months of seasoning vs. level 12 or 12 months of seasoning), and wood grain size of the barrel (tight, average, or coarse). All other variables — tree cut, barrel char, aging warehouse, and entry proof — remained the same.

All of these are 105 proof entry-proof whiskeys again, and overall this was one of the more highly-scored rounds in the series to date. While nothing was an incredible standout, I didn’t think any of these whiskeys were particular failures. If any lessons can be drawn from this round, it’s that tighter-grained barrels tended to score more highly than coarse ones. But really, looking at pairs of whiskeys you’ll see how big an issue barrel variability and randomness tends to be.

Based on Buffalo Trace’s online reviews, the leading barrels are 97 and 106. Jim Murray loves barrel 63 the most to date, and Paul Pacult has rated 10, 30, and 72 the best. Drinkhacker’s top picks are 10, 110, 132, 159, 160, 167, and 189, all of which have scored As. (No A+ ratings so far…)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #18 – Lots of vanilla, very easy, pleasant. Plenty of wood on the nose. Cherry notes on the finish. A- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #26 – Bigger, brasher, with a hefty alcoholic burn. Medicinal, to an extent, on the nose. Bit of menthol, which impacts its overall “whiskyness.” B (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #50 – Similar on the nose to #26 — some mint, some hospital notes — touches of red pepper give it a bit of exoticism. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 17 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #58 – I like the balance. It’s bold without being brash. Lots of traditional Bourbon notes — vanilla and caramel, touched with cinnamon. Even a little chocolate on the finish. Arguably better than #18. A- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 17 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #82 – Lots of spice, on the nose at least. Interesting character, but sweeter and with ample spice. Lots of wood. Fun. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 14 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #90 – Very woody, tannic. Dry and a little tough. B- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #114 – Ample wood, some apple, some orange… but too much heat to make it all work. B (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 13 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #122 – Bigger vanilla, pretty straightforward… until black pepper comes along at the end. Not entirely complex, but definitively worthwhile. A- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #146 - Spicier, with some cloves and cinnamon. A little toffee and nuttiness as it goes down and matures in the glass. Not at all bad. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #154 – Tons of heat on the nose… tough to push past all that to get to what is a fruity and amply sweet Bourbon without being overdone. A bit woody on the finish, which is surprisingly lasting. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #178 – I was sure this was rye (wrong!), good spice, with some chocolate and cinnamon. Very contentious at our tasting panel — the lasting woodiness you either love or hate. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 8 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #186 – Extremely sweet, almost cloying. Not a lot of character due to the overwhelming amount of sugar in the glass. I’d use it as a mixer. B (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 8 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #3 char, bottom 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 Seven

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