Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Nine

We’re over the hump and on to the last half of Buffalo Trace’s “Single Oak Project” experiment. Now two years into the four year experiment, with this ninth round of experimental, single-barrel Bourbons we hope to find the Holy Grail of just what is responsible for the perfect glass of whiskey.

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
Round Eight

This round looks at the same variables as round eight, considering 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). The other variables in this round remain the same, though all are different from the standards in round eight — warehouse (concrete), entry proof (125), char level (#3), and stave seasoning (6 months).

All told this was the Single Oak Project’s least successful round, or one of them. Something about this combination — perhaps the lower char level and high entry proof — made for a lot of overly astringent, overly woody whiskeys. Sweetness was generally lacking, with precious few exceptions.

Buffalo Trace hasn’t released any new information about what barrels are in the lead in aggregate ratings on the Single Oak website. Nonetheless, here’s how we feel about the latest round of hooch.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #5 – Heavy apples, very fruity. Light body, pleasant and easy. Touch of citrus on the back end. B+(rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 17 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #6 –Slightly more astringent than #5, more burly. Dark chocolate and coffee bean, charcoal character on the finish. Feels overcooked. C+ (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 17 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #37 – Hot heat, fire and brimstone. No fruit left in this, just charred wood and embers. Bad barrel? C- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #38 – Spicy and fun, lots of cinnamon and baking spices, with a gingerbread finish. Woody but well integrated. A- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, tight grain, 16 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #69 – Overripe bananas and vegetal notes, a little saccharine. Has something of an Irish whiskey feel to it. The finish is off, lean and unbalanced. C (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #70 – Lots of grain influence on this one. Tastes young, but not overly brash. Chewy and rustic.  B- (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 12 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #101 – Lots of raw alcohol notes, a hot burner. Settles down with time, revealing ample wood character, but the finish is still to fiery for easy drinking. C+ (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 13 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #102 – Woody, but with some spice to it. Similar to 101 but with a bit more sweetness and a smoother finish. Astringency on the finish dulls its impact. B- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, average grain, 13 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #133 – Very woody, particularly on the nose. Hot with burning coals but tempered with some nougat and marshmallow notes. Give it a chance. B (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #134 – Not bad. Good sweetness level, with decent vanilla and caramel, but tough on the back end. (rye, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 9 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #165 – Far more balanced than most of the crowd here. Again, plenty of wood but tempered with some chocolate and cinnamon. Decent finish. B+ (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 8 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #166 – Hot. Grains, spice, a big whiskey. Not entirely put together well, with a red pepper and wood char finish. Weird collection of flavors, all out of balance. (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 6 seasoning, coarse grain, 8 growth rings/inch, concrete ricks, #3 char, bottom half of tree)

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

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