Buffalo Trace’s Twelfth Round of Single Oak Project Bourbon
A press release on Buffalo Trace’s next installment of their Single Oak Project. It’s interesting to learn about how the different parts of the tree contributes to the aging process but I’m not interested enough to dish out $45 for a 375 ml bottle to try.
“Buffalo Trace Distillery releases the twelfth round of the Single Oak Project Bourbon
which focuses on tree cut, with difference in using oak from the top and bottom of the tree to age bourbon. Wood grain size and recipe also vary. All other variables in this experiment remain constant – char level, warehouse type, stave seasoning, and entry proof.
The focus on tree cut for this release has been a hot topic of debate amongst those involved in the Project, as the tracking of the origin of the wood for the barrel – top or bottom of the tree – has been virtually untracked by any other distillery, until now.
Many bourbon fans have asked why, or if, tree cut matters. Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley has this to say on the topic, “From top to bottom, the tree chemistry is quite different. The chemicals most affected by the tree structure are oak lignins and tannins. Oak lignins are composed of two building blocks, vanillin and syringaldehyde. Generally there is a higher composition of oak lignins in the bottom part of the tree which in turn delivers more vanilla. Tannins are generally higher in concentration in the top section of the tree versus the bottom; however, they also vary from inside out. The outer heartwood is generally higher in tannin concentration.”
Wheatley continues, “As far as taste, most people know how the vanilla contributes to the flavor, but tannins are important for the development of esters, which sometimes deliver fruitiness or complexity to the overall composition.”
Throughout the Project, reviewers have been evenly divided on their preferences between the top half and the bottom half of the tree, based on the barrels that have been in the lead through the online review process. Currently the leader is barrel #82, which is, incidentally, from the bottom half of the tree.
However, it’s not too late to get in on the act and start reviewing, as four more releases will take place before this project ends in the summer of 2015. More than 4,000 reviews have been given so far on www.singleoakproject.com
The Single Oak Project is part of an intensive research project Buffalo Trace Distillery started conducting in 1999 by hand picking 96 trees with different wood grains and then dividing them into a top and bottom piece, yielding 192 unique sections. From there, staves were created from each section and were air dried for either 6 months or 12 months. After all the staves were air dried, a single barrel was created from each tree section, resulting in 192 total barrels. These barrels were given either a number three or a number four char and then filled with either wheat or rye recipe bourbon.
To further the variety of experiments, the barrels were filled at two different proofs, 105 and 125 proof. And if this wasn’t enough, two completely different warehouses were used, one with wooden floors and one with concrete floors. In total, seven different variables were employed in Buffalo Trace’s ultimate experiment.
For eight years the Distillery continued with its tracking process, creating intricate databases and coming up with a potential of 1,396 tasting combinations from these 192 barrels!
The Single Oak Project Bourbon is being released in a series every three months from 2011 through 2015 until all of the 192 barrels have been released. The first release hit select stores in 2011. This twelfth release will reach stores towards the end of February. Like all the other releases, the quantities are very limited. Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The twelfth release is made up of barrel numbers 15, 16, 47, 48, 79, 80, 111, 112, 143, 144, 175, and 176. All releases will be packaged in a 375ml bottle. Suggested retail pricing per bottle is $46.35.
At the conclusion of the Single Oak Project, the Distillery plans to take the top rated Single Oak Project Bourbon and make more just like it, under the Single Oak name.”
Source: Buffalo Trace
Sipping: Rob Roy