Whiskey Review Round Up: Barrell Craft Spirits Special Releases

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Barrell Craft Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

I was at a party recently and someone asked me what whiskies I typically recommend. Barrell is one of my go-tos. Barrell is a independent craft bottler, based in Louisville, Kentucky. They obviously have a great line on some premium spirits and the palate to blend them well, because they are consistently solid. Their products tend to be high-proof but not taste high-alcohol (at least to me).

Even though I like some (Barrell Bourbon Batch 15 and Barrell Rye Batch 001) more than others (Barrell Bourbon Batch 13), I can’t say I’ve ever tasted one I didn’t like, and it’s a pretty steadfast suggestion. In other words, they’ve never led me astray.

As we mentioned in December 2018, Barrell came out with a new premium line-up: Barrell Craft Spirits. They have said to have been in the works for three years, drawn from sourced barrels selected “for their refined properties and extraordinary flavor profile” and then bottled at cask strength. I was lucky enough to be able to taste the Barrell Craft Spirits 15-Year Bourbon and the Barrell Craft Spirits 25-Year Whiskey.

A 15 year bourbon and 25 year whiskey form Barrell Craft Spirits (image via Barrell Craft Spirits)

Tasting Notes: Barrell Craft Spirits 15-Year Bourbon Batch 001

Vital stats: 15-year-old bourbon whiskey, distilled and aged in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana but crafted and bottled in Kentucky; 105.1 proof at cask strength; mash bill of corn, rye, and malted barley; aged in new, charred, American oak; about $250

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Appearance: A deep and rich amber, fiery in the glass. For real: It’s got the glow of a well-tended fireplace at a cozy cabin in February. Richness! Depth!

Nose: It begins with sweetness: brown sugar, caramel—and then a pinprick of mint, fresh-cut honey crisp apples. Starts sweet and finishes fresh and bright.

Palate: Smooth, and then surprising. Because it finishes just a touch smoky, peaty. It’s something the nose didn’t suggest at all. How is it that this bourbon finishes like a Scotch? The mouthfeel is bourbon-like, and there’s a nice bouncy roundness to it, which is balanced by slightly acidy peaty-ness. This is definitely high-end whiskey that tastes high-end. Is it worth $250 a bottle? I think the max I’d pay for this is about $150. That said, I would definitely not turn down a splash of this, and neither should you.

Score: 4/5

Tasting Notes: Barrell Craft Spirits 25-Year Whiskey Batch 001

Vital stats: 25-year-old American whiskey, distilled and aged in Indiana but crafted and bottled in Kentucky; 112.2 proof, cask-strength; finished in Sercial Madeira barrels; about $250

Appearance: Browner than its sibling. More of a golden brown: Think glossy highlights on a brunette. Like the tan you secretly want to get even though it’s bad for you. It’s not as rich on appearance as the bourbon.

Nose: This is also less strong than its sibling, In fact, it’s pretty darn subtle. You have to lean really deeply into it to get much, and what you get is muted butterscotch candy and animal crackers. I would have thought the Madeira aging would give it more sweetness, but it’s just enough. It’s not a fake- or cake-sweet but it does smell more like those squares of Kraft caramels than homemade caramel bubbling. That’s kind of cool, though. A little nostalgic. Like, sometimes you don’t want a PB&J on artisanal bread, you want it on the spongy white bread, with the filling oozing out the side. (Full disclosure: I think any kind of PB&J is disgusting, but my point is that sometimes nostalgia does the job.)

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Palate: Oh…wow. This is really, really, really nice. It’s got maturity. It’s complex, and easy-drinking. I’m not sitting there trying to dissect every flavor molecule—it’s just freaking good.. I just want to hang out and sip on this all night. That might be problematic because of its high proof, but it doesn’t taste like high-proof. Would I pay $250 for it? When I looked at my notes, I’d written, “No, but I wouldn’t blame someone else if they did.” As I’m writing this review I’m amending that to, “Sure, but I can’t find it anywhere to buy.” Seriously, this whiskey! I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s everything I like about whiskey, and easily the best I’ve had in a good long while. If I could give it a 6/5 I would. Oh wait, I just did.

Score: 5/5

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Carin Moonin

A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...