Whiskey Review: Barrell Bourbon 012

Barrell Bourbon, whiskey sourcer extraordinaire, is back with its 12th bourbon release, Barrell Bourbon 012. Over the past several years, Barrell has built a reputation on sourcing well-aged American whiskeys and releasing them under their own label in cask-strength bottlings, much like a Scottish independent bottler. While they never disclose which distillery any particular release comes from, they do tell us the state where the juice was distilled, as well as the state where it was aged, Batch 012 was distilled and aged in Tennessee.

While all of Barrell’s releases thus far have been sourced, earlier this year they announced that they were opening their very own distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, helmed by Trip Stimson, previously of Brown-Forman and Kentucky Artisan Distillery. Plans call for production to start at the end of the year, with the goal of laying down 1,000 barrels in 2018.

That’s exciting news from Barrell, if only because it means at some point in the future they’ll have a few reliably long-term products (I hope). So far, each of their releases has been a limited edition small batch, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I still wish I’d bought a backup bottle of batch 005

I was optimistic about batch 012 even before I opened the bottle. The relatively low cask strength proof of 108.5 suggests a lower barrel entry proof, a technique that tends to produce a particularly delicious, well-integrated flavor profile. Without further ado, lets see if that’s what batch 012 delivers.

Barrell Bourbon 012.

Barrell Bourbon 012. Photo by Margarett Waterbury, image copyright The Whiskey Wash.

Tasting Notes: Barrell Bourbon 012

Vital Stats: 9 years old, 108.5 proof, distilled in Tennessee. 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley.

Appearance: A medium, somewhat brassy amber.

Nose: A warm prickle greets the nose. There’s vanilla, cherry, banana bread, cornbread, and a bit of dill. It’s somewhat brandy-like, with soft oak, a sweetness that tends more towards honey than caramel, and chalk. Water mutes the corn and fruit, leaving the scent a little one-dimensional.

Palate: Gentle at first, the amplitude builds over time. There’s lots of spice here, more in the realm of black pepper and chili than holiday spice, as well as an interesting fruity acidity. This is a pretty dry bourbon, with a good dollop of oak and salt to cut any sweetness. The finish is long and mineral-driven, with a chalky, vitamin-like aspect. I love the proof: full-flavored, but not unpleasantly hot. The addition of a little water cuts the tannin and brings out some rounded vanilla and coconut tones.

The Takeaway

Barrell 012 is a little more rough-and-tumble than its older brethren, a little less refined, but there’s still lots to like. It has lovely age, hearty spice, and an intriguing minerality, all packaged at the perfect proof. A great candidate for a hearty pour over a cube or two of ice.

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Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...