On his Sour Mash Manifesto blog this past Wednesday, Jason Pyle worried that his whiskey geek card might be taken away because he can't get behind the Buffalo Trace (BT) Single Oak Bourbon Project.
Jason's whiskey cred is secure. He may be overly fond of white and under-aged craft whiskeys, but on the Single Oak thing he's not wrong.
Reading over the piece and its comments, it becomes clear that the problem isn't the Single Oak Project per se, it is the whole 'search for the Holy Grail' overlay, in which BT says Single Oak is part of its quest to make the perfect bourbon.
Holy Grail has become a double-edged sword for BT. The theme is a winner with the general press. It piques their interest and that allows BT to reach a wider audience. But it turns off the whiskey geek community because it glorifies something we reject. We're not in this to find one whiskey to drink for the rest of our lives. We want to have as many good but different whiskey experiences as possible. Sampling the Single Oak bourbons is a good and different whiskey experience, one Jason and many others will enjoy more if they just forget the 'Holy Grail' nonsense.
BT is okay with that. They have always said 'Holy Grail' is more about a commitment to continuous quality improvement than it is about actually making the ultimate bourbon. Taken as a metaphor, it's not nearly so irritating and distracting. It's also another way BT breaks with conventional whiskey wisdom, as most producers like to claim they achieved perfection a century ago and haven't changed a thing since.
Which is the higher pile of hubris is up to each of us to decide for ourselves, but there is genuine appeal in the idea that the best is yet to come.