Over the last year, I’ve been reviewing the rounds of the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project. While many have been skeptical of this project, I have defended it as I didn’t see it as any more or less crassly commercial than the rest of the industry’s various projects and exclusives. I still think it’s a long way from collections that are as vulgar as the Dalmore Constellation collection, for that matter.
However, over the last few months, my tasting group has had participants drop out. I didn’t think this was a problem at the time – I know tons and ton of whiskey aficionados, surely replacing the drop-outs wouldn’t be a huge effort. And yet it was. For every replacement seat secured, another participant dropped out. While most of it was covered, it ended up being one short on a rolling basis.
Unfortunately, that’s where I have to know when to fold my hand.
Even if I did secure every seat, that’s for one round. The most die-hard whiskey fans I know couldn’t sustain interest past four releases. The prospect of chasing down willing participants seemingly endlessly for three years on a quarterly basis doesn’t sound like a fun time to me.
So, I am forced to revisit the question of the Single Oak Project. Yes, it’s interesting. Yes, it’s audacious. But if it’s not possible to drum up sustained interest among the nerdiest and most passionate of bourbon lovers, how will the project sustain interest for the next three years? As a casual consumer, you’re picking blind. The only guy who seems to be continuing to have coverage is Christopher Null over at Drinkhacker - and that’s just one opinion out there. I know I will not be buying individual bottles blind; it misses the point of the project.
So the project adds one more unaccounted-for variable: inconsistency among palates. Maybe Buffalo Trace thought this through and there will be separate cohorts analyzed, but I doubt it. Maybe Buffalo Trace is happy to roll the dice based on near-random consumer input with very little control data, but a one in 192 shot is utterly awful odds at finding “The Perfect Bourbon”. It’s better than the lottery by a fair shot, but it’s about 6 times worse odds than roulette tables.
For me, this seems to be the end of the project. I would have been interested to follow it through, but the economics are prohibitive – $600 a case every four months? I’m not going to pay close to $2500 a year for bourbon I only need about 60mL of to understand in the context of SIngle Oak, and I don’t have the space to store such a huge amount of whiskey for such an ongoing time. 54 liters of bourbon remaining in 3 years is too tall an order – to say nothing of the $7500 buy-in it would require.
So, unfortunately, this is the end for the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project coverage here, as far as I can see it. Managing a group buy and filling minis, photographing bottles and so on – I’m not going to miss that one bit. I will miss the bit-by-bit experimentation, but $100 a quarter was as high as I would go on it.
Your best bet for future coverage is at Drinkhacker as linked above, and it seems like a few liquor store owners are quietly making their way through the flights.
Good luck, Buffalo Trace. If a release for the aficionados can’t generate and sustain aficionado interest, those three years of remaining inventory have to be looking slightly larger.