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Saturday
Aug132011

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Tasting Notes

While we are not able to offer these bottles to customers due to their extremely limited quantity, I was able to secure one set of the first twelve releases from Buffalo Trace’s highly anticipated single oak project.  I definitely admire what BT is doing because as a whisk(e)y geek it’s absolutely fascinating – different bourbons being aged in barrels made from different parts of the tree, along with several other variables that all affect the flavor differently.  They even have a website you can visit after you’ve tasted your bottle where you can leave your own personal feedback in exchange for the DNA info of each whiskey.  It’s an ingenious way to get people involved in an education discussion of the product as well as obtaining valuable feedback from interested consumers.  There’s just one gigantic problem – they didn’t make enough.  

Even though the whiskies have been diluted to 45% and packaged in 375ml half bottles, there are still precious few of these whiskies available (when I finally logged into the BT website to leave my reviews there were only about ten to fifteen others – that’s nothing!) Each barrel is unique so imagine trying to supply the world’s demand out of one single cask! Tasting any one bottle on its own is meaningless because the goal is to understand them in conjunction with one another, so selling these single bottles as individual pieces was pointless. However, giving them all to one customer would be unfair as well as superfluous – these need to be analyzed in a group! I decided the only thing to do was buy the one set myself, call up seventeen friends, colleagues, and customers to split the cost, and divide the bottles up evenly.  That way we allow the maximum amount of people to taste each bottle side-by-side as intended.

I recently finished my tasting session of all twelve and have rather mixed emotions concerning these bourbons.  While I find each of them fascinating for what they are, I wouldn’t call any of them great or even worthwhile as a purchase.  I loved tasting them and I will definitely buy the next set to do the same activity, but had I purchased these to drink and enjoy over time, I would have been gravely disappointed. Anyone thinking that they’ve missed out on the world’s greatest bourbon, fear not – these are far from a finished product, in my opinion.  Others seem to agree because the average rating for most of these whiskies on the actual Single Oak website is around 70% which is a C- if I'm interpreting the scoring system correctly.  Below are my tasting notes if anyone cares to read.  All the whiskies in this group are eight years of age and the barrels were all toasted at #4 char.

Barrel #3 (top tree cut, rye mash) – all-spice, pencil shavings on the nose with vanilla, very peppery, resinous, and bright on the palate, finish is more pencil shavings and wood, very assertive

Barrel #35 (top tree cut, wheat mash) – brandied fruits on the nose with toasted wood and vanilla, an herbal, drying palate with toasted nuts, ashy finish

Barrel #68 (bottom tree cut, rye mash) – rich honey aromas blend into graphite with salted caramel.  Slightly sweet on the palate with balanced richness, vanilla, and sandlewood.  Saw dust on the finish,

Barrel #164 (bottom tree cut, wheat mash) – furniture store varnish with pencil lead aromas, green flavors, little richness if any, hints of grain, lean and lacking.

Barrel #99 (top tree cut, wheat mash) – unripe bananas on the nose with vanilla and Cognac, fatter textures and more developed flavors, spice and pepper on the finish

Barrel #4 (bottom tree cut, rye mash) – richer, more vanilla with sawdust underneath on the nose, supple palate with bolder wood flavors, green, vegetal, bitter on the finish.

Barrel #131 (top tree cut, rye mash) – green bananas with pencil shavings, paint thinner and Seagrams 7 on the palate, then all spice with a sandy, dusty finish.

Barrel #67 (tope tree cut, rye mash) graphite, pencil lead aromas with faint vanilla, good baking spices with supple richness on the palate, herbal and resinous finish.

Barrel #100 (bottom tree cut, wheat mash) ­– candy peanut aromas with oak, rich more balanced palate with salted notes, balanced and lengthy finish.

Barrel #36 (bottom tree cut, wheat) – Payday candy bar aromas, nougat, sweet spices, nice vanilla notes on the palate, glowing with honey on the finish

Barrel #132 (bottom tree cut, rye) – brown sugar and molasses aromas, totally different than of the others on the nose, nutty, sherry flavors on the palate, tobacco finish.

Barrel #163 (top tree cut, wheat) – Baby Ruth aromas, black pepper and earthy must on the palate, faint richness but roars to a bold, spicy finish.

I tasted all twelve at the store with my assistant Kyle and we both felt that there was an overwhelming woodiness to all of these, but not new oak or vanilla.  Most had a sawdust, pencil shavings, graphite, sandlewood element to them so I wonder where that’s coming from.  Overall a great experience and I look forward to the next batch!

-David Driscoll