Friday, September 14, 2012

Buffalo Trace "Single Oak Project"

By Warren Bobrow

Bourbon is my new go-to for brown spirits. Perhaps it's the burn at the finish, or maybe the elegance in the glass? Whatever the situation is, I can usually find a selection of Bourbon in a restaurant that includes the usual standards, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey - those are the basics that are available most everywhere. My topic of choice is Rum, but with the plethora of flavored Rum on the market, the diversity of quality (at least on a restaurant/bar scale) is pretty disappointing. I don’t make a habit of reviewing flavored Rum, nor flavored Vodka. It's like shooting fish in a barrel - there are so many similar brands on the shelf that I don't have the time to even look at them.

That's why I like Bourbon! Quality over sheer numbers of brands makes Bourbon my go-to for flavor!

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project is my newest love. There are about a dozen individual expressions that form this project. Each bottle reflects a different barrel, char, location of the wood on the tree (upper, middle, and lower) composition (wheat, rye) and char (#3 or #4).

I'm enjoying tasting a few nips of Barrel # 32 and it reveals a pungent, cinnamon tinged rye composition. Sweet on the back of the tongue, this brightly flavored slurp sports a #4 Char and was aged in Warehouse L - made of concrete. The color of this Bourbon is bright honey and gold. A sip reveals a rye with finesse. Sure it's plenty hot, rolling in at 90 Proof, but it also has an amazingly long finish of freshly ground grits laced with caramel syrup and a peppery whirl across my tongue. Almost cola like on the mid range, the Barrel #32 is lovely in a snifter alone or served with toasted nuts. I'd say that Barrel #32 has all the stuffing to compete against the finest Whiskies in the world.

Barrel #64 is completely different. First of all the composition is primarily wheat. Softer in the mouth and not quite as spicy, wheat based Bourbon needs a touch of water to liven up the finish. Rolling in at 90 Proof, the "wheated" version is magnificent with grilled corn on the cob and even caramel custards. I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest good old barbeque with the #64. Each expression has its own pleasure, its own style and power. #64 is a #4 Char. This means it has the most fire toasted wood, releasing sweet vanilla fire directly into the barrel of Bourbon.  Recently I visited a distillery in Bristol, Pennsylvania named Dad's Hat. They actually bag the char from within the barrel for your barbeque grill. When I hear about barrels containing this char I get very hungry. I can almost taste a rack of ribs, cooked over still wet charred Bourbon wood. This is one of life's true pleasures.

Barrel #62 is sweeter and less fire driven than #64 or #32. This is sipping Bourbon with white flower notes and pulled candy sugar mid-ranges. The finish is pure and refined. There is nothing harsh or crass about this Bourbon.  Elegant, sweet and tart comes into view - a certain sticky nature to the finish - similar to opening a jar of Sage Honey with the spicy, savory elements holding themselves true to form. Distilled from wheat, #62 has purity and opulence. It's most sophisticated with a multi-minute finish.

Barrel #96 is like jumping into an over powered hot rod automobile. Comprised of rye, #96 is the liquid version of the perennial Jewish Deli favorite, the hot pastrami on rye with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.  This is a liquid Rueben sandwich. I'm blown away by the sharp, yet sweet finish and crisp aromatics. Darker gold in the glass, the #96 possesses an inner heat that goes on and on in the finish. Good stuff!

Barrel #94 is also comprised of rye with a Ginger Beer nose and a cola finish. This Bourbon is dry and complete in very few words. It has a much shorter finish than #96, but much more emotion than the #96 or the #32. I'm emotionally charged after drinking #94. Thick and rich on the tongue, #94 is even better with water sprinkled over the top of your glass. Something about sprinkling water over the top of a glass of Bourbon releases the secrets held deeply within. A bit deeper in color than its peers, #94 is a #3 Char. This stuff is my personal favorite of the tasting.

Barrel #30 is comprised of rye. Spicy on the tongue, laced with Caribbean baking spices, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and hot peppers - this expression has marvelous character to it. Barrel #30 is a #3 Char. Quite powerful and dare I say juicy, it reminds me of Pappy Van Winkle's 20 year version. Both juicy and aromatic on the finish, #30 would be fabulous with chopped chicken livers smeared over fatty corned beef on rye with spicy Jewish mustard. Bravo!

But what good are tastings if you cannot taste them for yourself? DrinkUpNY has secured a limited supply of the Single Oak Project series. Elegantly packed in 1/2 sized bottles, this Bourbon is not inexpensive, but it is certainly satisfying to the careful drinker.

Available in strictly limited numbers - like everything good in life, get it now or forget about it later!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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