Tasting Bourbon and a Bourbon Drinking Pleasure Equation


WARREN BOBROW

Photo by Christophe Jammet

Photo by Christophe Jammet

Where do you start when faced with a dilemma? Not one too serious, but a quandary that has to do with tasting bourbon whiskey.

So this dilemma of not knowing which cask from which to taste first is easy.

You start at the beginning! I’m going right to left…

The Single Oak Project from Buffalo Trace is the topic du jour and most definitely tomorrow too. Bottles of the single oak project are produced in extremely small numbers. Finding these bottles can be a complicated task. A good liquor store should be able to find some of these bottlings, if given enough time.

I’d start with a high-end liquor store like DrinkupNY.com and go from there.

Who knew that the first time I tasted bourbon whiskey (I think it was Wild Turkey 101), I’d actually like it! Now, with all these little sample bottles in front of me, the responsibility begins anew! It’s fun to taste barrel samples. First of all and foremost in my mind is the exclusivity of the experience. This can lead to problems.

Especially since not every barrel is bottled, nor would I be able to ask for a bottle from a specific cask. This is really the only time I can taste each expression. It’s enjoying it (or not) now, because the future is unavailable, at least in my price range.

The Single Oak Project is not inexpensive. Here are my tasting notes on a some of these samples:

Single Oak Project- 90 Proof: Barrel #48

Is licking a wet stone a good explanation of what barrel #48 tastes like? Bacon fat finish with crushed stones. Cornbread, no, it’s not just cornbread… but hushpuppies. They slide elegantly into view with little pops and crackles of burning. There are dried apricots and the aromatics of white chocolate, but not overly sweet or cloying. The next thing that leaps into my mouth is the overall dryness. If this were red wine, I’d say this bourbon would age for decades.

My overall impression is tight and powerful in the chewy finish that goes on for a few long minutes.

Single Oak Project- 90 Proof: Barrel 144

I smell the ocean, or freshly raked sea salt in the nose, giving way to maple syrup coated walnuts and freshly baked sourdough. There is alcohol in there, ninety proof of it so there’s no missing that element. It’s unmistakable how the notes of brown butter, almost a beurre noir- are revealing themselves in each swallow. DRY finish of scorched earth and late summer rain on red clay.

Single Oak Project- 90 Proof: Barrel 47

Caramel corn on the nose giving way to freshly dug carrots that have been roasted over smoldering coals.

This is very sophisticated bourbon. All it needs is sprinkle of cool water over the top to release the secrets held within. The sugars are mouth coating and bold against a veneer of salty sea stones. It’s drier than the last two samples, more akin to rye across my tongue and down my gullet. Asian spices reveal themselves and then burst, they dissipate quickly into the background. There is a tornado against my teeth. Overall, this is a brilliant effort!

Single Oak Project- 90 Proof: Barrel #16

Was this stored on the floor or the ceiling of the Rickhouse? I’m not sure but the color of this venerable bourbon whiskey is golden brown against the mottled white color of my ancient tin-topped kitchen table. It’s deeply syrupy, bold and knit with finishing dry notes of historic, chalk cave aged Champagne. Citrus in the finish, perhaps grilled blood orange? I like this expression very much. I’d like more please?

Single Oak Project- 90 Proof: Barrel #143

Tangerine peel in the mouth, but in the form of brilliant soda syrup handcrafted from Fruitations from Massachusetts, this is uber-elegant and surprising stuff.

Spicy, creamy, lush and oozing with brown butter, toasted nuts and Spanish saddle leather, this effort is my favorite so far. This effort is tempestuous, fire singed and electric against my tongue. Have you ever seen the roasted nut dealers on the streets in New York City? It’s got the same flavor and aroma.

In summation of this run of bourbons, they have all the stuffing to relieve me of my hard earned money. If you see the Single Oak Project, take a chance and buy a bottle. If your palate is like mine, you’ll grab a pastrami sandwich at a local deli and slather that rye bread with deli-style mustard. Take a huge bite making sure that you got your sandwich fatty because:

Fat + great pastrami + mustard + great rye bread = bourbon drinking pleasure.

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