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Issue 101 - A Singular Idea

Whisky Magazine Issue 101
February 2012

 

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A Singular Idea

Mark Gillespie explores Buffalo Trace's single oak project

Most distilleries have a few dozen or so “experimental barrels” stashed away in their warehouses. Buffalo Trace has more than 1,500, but the idea for the Single Oak Project, the Kentucky distiller's most extensive experiment, didn't come from master distiller Harlen Wheatley or even the Buffalo Trace marketing team.

“We were sitting in a meeting talking about aging, and Ronnie started to talk about the importance of the tree and picking different trees,” said Buffalo Trace CEO Mark Brown of longtime warehouse manager Ronnie Eddins.

“It became very clear to us that he really knew exactly what he was talking about in terms of where the tree is grown, how high up on the slope, the moisture level of the ground around the tree, the growth rings per inch of the tree, the fact there is a difference in a barrel made from the top half of the tree versus the bottom half.” That was back in 1999, and Ronnie Eddins was dispatched to the forests of the Missouri Ozarks to pick a set of trees to test those differences. He selected 96 different trees based on their growth rings and the resulting grain, and the trees were sent to a sawmill for processing.

Unlike most barrels in the industry, which are produced from randomly selected staves, these trees were cut in half, and each half was used to produce the heads and staves for a single barrel.

The idea: to test seven different variables for their influence on the final flavour of the matured Bourbon.

After eight years of agin...

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