Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Barrell Craft Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Time for another release from Barrell Bourbon! We have reviewed many of the batches put out by this blending company from Kentucky, and are happy to see what this double award winning bourbon is going to be like. Batch 18 was rated Best Small Batch Bourbon 11 Years and Older at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year. Some of the Barrell Bourbon batches have three, four or five accolades and medals, along with Whiskey Advocate ratings of 90 and above. Sometimes selecting special casks and blending them yourself produces impressive results.
The only thing hiding is where exactly the whiskey is coming from and the mash bill percentages. That’s no big deal however, because you know you’re getting something good when you try it. Disclosing all the specifics would not only take away some of the fun guessing game, but could also skew your perception if you have preconceived thoughts about certain distillery flavor profiles. The fact that they tell you it’s made in Kentucky and Tennessee is really enough.
The information released with this batch does include that it’s made from corn, rye and malted barley. It also meets all the other necessary requirements to call it bourbon such as the use of new American oak for the casks. They are blending three different straight bourbon whiskeys together here, all above 11 years of age. They say that the 11 year is the ‘juicy and tropical’ base, while 14 and 15 year whiskeys bring the wood spice and structure to the party.
While the sweet spot for many bourbons is right around ten years, many of the best and most respected bourbons come from slightly older selections. The practice of using a prime base year and then layering in bigger and bolder whiskies is common, and usually results in fantastic bourbons. The goal of Batch 18 here is to bring a lot of bite, flavor and character without losing the classic beauty of 9 to 11 year bourbon. Balance is key, after all.
Tasting Notes: Barrel Bourbon Batch 18
Vital Stats: 111.56 proof, corn-rye-malted barley mash bill, blend of 11, 14 and 15 year straight bourbon whiskeys, bottle 4891 of batch 18. $80 for a 750mL.
Appearance: Burnt honey.
Nose: Pineapple, mango and some plum. Madagascar vanilla, cardamom and a touch of cinnamon. You can nearly smell each part of the blend independently, but then the ensemble comes through and sings for you to take a sip.
Palate: Warm spice and tropical fruits with a chewy vanilla undertone. It resembles a tiki cocktail in bourbon form. The alcohol content is very easy to handle, and adds to the mouth feel nicely. The warmth is gone quickly, and your left with dry baking spice and alcohol. It lingers, but only in a way that brings you back for another try because the first sip is so inviting. Adding water opens the tropical funk, and makes the entire experience a little more lasting.
This is my first experience with a Barrel Bourbon batch. My expectations were relatively high, and met very well. The ‘tropical’ description may have persuaded my palate a bit, but there is definitely a fresh and uplifting character about this whiskey. It is balanced, bold and flavorful. It’s a bit like a gusher candy, giving off big fruit flavor before bringing in the spice, letting wood character linger. Hats off to the blenders!
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After graduating with an engineering degree in Colorado, Cameron Holck discovered his passion for hospitality. He followed his love of the outdoors into the Pacific Northwest where he continues his dedication to bartending, and as a sales representative for Four Roses Bourbon. He warmly welcomes the fact that a night...