Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Eight

Another quarter, another installment of the Buffalo Trace “Single Oak Project” experiment. This month we look at the eighth round of these unique, single-barrel Bourbons as we help analyze what recipes and formulas 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
Round Seven

This round considers the effect of recipe (rye vs. wheat, which so far has been tested in every round), wood grain (tight/average/course), and tree cut (top or bottom of tree). All other variables — warehouse (wood), entry proof (105), char level (#4), and stave seasoning (12 months) — remained the same.

Overall the round was fairly average. Lots of very drinkable whiskeys here, though one pair — 155 and 156 — tasted distinctly off, making me wonder if there was a problem with the tree used to make these two barrels (155 was the top, 156 the bottom). Tasting notes for almost all of the six pairs of whiskeys in this collection were fairly similar, leading me to believe there’s not a lot to be concerned about whether a barrel is crafted from the top of the tree or the bottom. Of course, once all 192 whiskeys are reviewed (two years from now), we’ll have a fuller picture of the variables.

Buffalo Trace says that barrels 97 and 106 continue their reign at the top of the charts right now. If you spot one of the newer barrels on the market, here’s what we have to say about them…

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #27 – Cherries on the nose, some citrus. Sweet on the palate, with similar fruit. A fine, fruity Bourbon without a lot of nuance, but very easy drinking. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #28 – More wood character, and more dessert notes on the palate. That said, balance comes along quite nicely as it opens up in the glass, with a silky, long finish. B+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #59 – Not a whole lot of flavor left in this, though the wood character dominates what’s left in the bottle. Drying finish without much love in it. This is an off barrel. C (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 18 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #60 – Very woody on the nose, but the body brings up cinnamon and baking spices. It’s still a little hot and unbalanced but the “frontier style” whiskey is fun to drink. Lots of vanilla on the finish. A contender. A- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, 18 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #91 – Not much of a nose on this, but the body features tons of vanilla. Beyond that, not a ton of character, but those in search of a “smooth” Bourbon will enjoy this. B (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #92 – Very woody nose, with a fresh-cut lumber character. On the palate, a bit racy, with touches of licorice and a bit of tannic burn. Lots going on in the lumberyard department. B (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #123 – Overwhelming wood on the nose, with touches of sweetness. The body’s not entirely balanced, tending tannic as it finishes. Some vanilla sweetness comes along late in the game, but too late. B- (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #124 – Hugely fruity, apples heavy here, with touches of cinnamon. Apple pie? It’s a little too sweet, but I’d see it as a real go-to as a blending Bourbon. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #155 – Medicinal, astringent on the nose. And yet, watery and just generally off in a couple of ways. This barrel’s not a great one, though it does settle down after some time in the glass. C- (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #156 – Heavy wood on the nose. Better than #155 but with more than a few similarities. Again, it settles down over time but the finish remains on the rough side. C+ (rye, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #187 – Again that hospital character comes on strong, backed by ample wood character. On the body: Woody, lightly tannic. Not my favorite. C+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #188 – Woody and burly with a nicely sweet finish. Lots of spice — red pepper and cinnamon, some cloves. Good balance in the end. B+ (wheat, 105 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, 10 growth rings/inch, wooden ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

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

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