It's the one of the geekiest marketing schemes I've experienced.
Choose 96 white oak trees. Cut barrel staves out of the top of the tree and out of the bottom. Vary the seasoning. So, 2 two barrels times 96 trees equals 192 barrels. Make 4 recipes of bourbon, 2 with rye, 2 with wheat, vary the entry proof and the aging regimen for a total of 7 variables. 192 barrels. Then bottle and release 12 barrels every four months. That's half bottles (375 ml) for between $55 and $89 according to my latest Google search. What!!!!
Scam or serious?
Buffalo Trace says they want to find the 'perfect' or 'favorite' bourbon. Purchasers are invited to log on to the Single Oak Project home page and register their own tasting notes in a structured format. Even better, the tasters can find out all the particulars down to the last nitty gritty about their particular bottle. And see other tasters and compare notes. At the end of the Project, when all the barrels have been released, Buffalo Trace will have amassed an enormous amount of data. They say they will put the favorite into production!
They sound serious. The bottles are all hand wrapped and hand numbered. The bottles are expensive, but so are the production values. I guess that it ultimately comes down to the whiskey.
I chose a bottle from barrel 67.
Why? Because I did my Internet homework and knew that it was a high-rye recipe from a barrel from the top of an average grained white oak tree. I like high-rye bourbons. And according to what I read, barrels of coarse-grained oak from the bottom of the tree and the MOST effect on the whiskey. Conversely barrels from fine-grained oak from the top of the tree have the LEAST effect on the whiskey. So my whiskey should have some, but not a lot of oakiness.
And how was the whiskey?
Delicious! Rich golden amber in color. Aromas of vanilla, butterscotch, burnt spiced orange peel and delicious whiskey waft langorously. Texture is heavy, rich and unctuous. Flavors of orange, cinnamon, caramel roll over the tongue and coat the mouth with butterscotch and bright little suggestions of anise. Finish is long. Luxurious whiskey. Lets the taster know that life ain't all bad!
There is the possibility of a small Single Oak Project community fueled by the Project web-site, ebay, word of mouth and an ever increasing number of whiskey drinkers with blogs praising some barrels and damning others. I hope the experience of all those who succumb to the geekiness have as rewarding experience as I did. If they do, the rest of the project will be presold and fought over. If not....