Joined up this evening with the Reverend Doctor to share tastes of the third release of Buffalo Trace's Single Oak Project. And while we were at it, we revisited a couple of other releases along with Eagle Rare 10 and 17 (Buffalo Trace Rye Recipe) and a recent release of Pappy Van Winkle's 12 year Lot B. I think I was able to keep it all straight.
As it turns out, it set a strong pattern for three of the Single Oak bourbons. Bottles 3, 8 and 67 were all rye, with 125 entry proof. They were all very similar. In fact they showed the same flavor descriptors as the Eagle 10 with nuanced differences between the three. But the quality was much higher than the 10. The texture was totally different and the brilliant flavors shifted like a kaleidoscope as the thick luxurious liquid rolled around the tongue.
To the differences. Barrels 3 and 67 were very similar flavors, 3 was lighter, 67 was buttery. Barrel 8 was very similiar, but had a distinct earthiness. When I compare the facts on the Single Oak website, all three bourbons are virtually identical, distilled on the same day from the same recipe. Barrels 2 and 3 were made with wood from the tops of the tree with a slight variation in tightness of grain. Both were aged on the 7th floor of the same concrete floored warehouse. Barrel 8 was made from the bottom of the tree and was aged on the 3rd floor of a wooden warehouse. Yikes, a difference in barrel and a difference in flavor. Was one better? I think it's up to the taster.
On the Single Oak website, there's a video shot in the Ozark forest as these trees were being felled. It's fascinating to hear Ronnie Eddins talk about how the sugar level is affected by grain, growth rate of the tree, and whether the tree was grown on the top of a hill, in a valley, or on a hillside. Of course the sugar level of the wood affects the caramelization of the barrel and thus the terroir of the barrel has great affect on the final whiskey.
Barrel 104 on the other hand was totally different. And the only difference was the recipe. The flavoring grain was wheat. The whiskey was dry and elegant with notes of grass, honey and smoke and a hint of anise. I have also tasted Barrel 36 which is wheated. My notes show a sweeter whiskey with more vanilla and hints of fruit. Again, the bourbons are identical in DNA except that 104 was aged in a concrete floor warehouse and the 36 was in wood.
Now to the ringers. The Pappy 12 year has slightly darker color and definitely has a sweeter finish and more burnished citrus fruits than the 104. But it is definitely finished with wheat and not rye, and it is 4 years older than the 8 year old Single Oaks.
The age of the Eagle Rare 17 is a definite trump. Oh, my it's silky. Big wood sits down with a thump of vanilla. And then the same rye flavors begin creaping out around the edges and hanging on through the long finish.
I'm exhausted. That was a lot of really good whiskey to keep track of, and the similarity of most of whiskeys made it even more difficult. Overall, there were differences were age and recipe. Wheat vs rye. 8 vs 10 vs 12 vs 17. Nuanced differences based on warehousing and grain. The most notable difference of all was between the Eagle 10 and every other whiskey. They were just on a different level of quality.