Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Broken Barrel. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Launched in 2012, Infuse Spirits crafts vodkas and bitters by infusing all-natural ingredients. Pick up a bottle off the shelf, and it will have the key flavoring components floating in the bottle. It doesn’t seem like an unnatural extension to experiment with infusing whiskey with barrel staves. After, of course, breaking apart some barrels. In 2019, founder and CEO, Seth Benhaim, spun off Infuse Spirits’ whiskeys to form a rebranded line under the name Broken Barrel.
Benhaim uses a unique production method to finish his whiskeys. He infuses the aged whiskey with staves instead of resting the liquid in finishing barrels or casks. Whiskey barrels are selected and batched into tanks where staves from a variety of cask and barrel types are added. Broken Barrel’s standard mix of staves is a combination of 40% ex-bourbon, 20% Sherry cask, and 40% new French oak barrel staves. You can find the list of stave types, dubbed the “oak bill” by Benhaim, on the bottle.
Broken Barrel’s premium line up includes a series of limited edition releases. In addition to the whiskeys reviewed here today, Broken Barrel has released a Japanese Mizunara oak and maple barrel stave-finished whiskey, the “Maple Mizunara.” The Broken Barrel “Plank Walker” Straight American Whiskey was aged for seven years in barrel before being finished with rum barrel staves. It was a holiday release for 2021.The Broken Barrel “The Wreckoner” Straight American Wheat whiskey is finished with new French oak and Cognac cask staves.
Tasting Notes: Broken Barrel “Plank Walker” Straight American Whiskey
Appearance: This whiskey shows a light amber-brown color with a yellow undertone.
Nose: The nose shows impact of the rum. There’s a moderate note of old timber and yellow pineapple. When first opened, the bottle displayed some unusual chemical and fishy aromas that fortunately blew off. It became fruitier with air, showing notes of cut papaya and freshly peeled lychee. Its tropical notes are balanced by the baking-spice notes from the rum staves.
Palate: This is creamy on the palate with very fine tannins and a long, lingering finish of lychees, tamarind, lime zest, and floral soap. I pick up a lot of baking spice notes alongside hints of freshly ground coffee and melted milk chocolate.
Appearance: This whiskey is moderate amber-brown in color.
Nose: This opens with a note of artificial vanilla extract and nail polish remover that blow off with air. It’s very delicate with notes of wet sand, sweet grains, and apple skins. There’s a touch of cinnamon gum and roasted chestnuts in the background. This is an outlier of the Broken Barrel line for its more neutral aromatics.
Palate: This is silky and unctuous on the palate with moderate, grippy tannins and a fiery bite on the finish. On the palate, it tastes like sweetened oatmeal and dried cornhusks. I enjoy the interplay between the creamy mouthfeel and the peppery, tannin-ladened finish. There are notes of applesauce, Italian plums, and cantaloupe skins on the finish. Water brings out the cereal notes. The aromatics on the palate are refined. This is a solid sipper with air.
Final Thoughts: The Broken Barrel “Plank Walker” Straight American Whiskey shows a remarkable step up from the core whiskey lineup. Though the impact of the rum staves was profound, it was extremely well balanced, showed incredibly appealing aromas, and a long finish. This my favorite of the Broken Barrel line for sipping. The Broken Barrel “The Wreckoner” Straight American Wheat Whiskey was a more delicate whiskey. I thought that the use of Cognac barrel staves was judicious and remarkable. Despite enjoying the liquid in the bottle, I’m not a huge fan of the all-black bottle because it’s impossible to see the level in the bottle. At double the cost of the core whiskey lineup, these special releases offer a superior and refined drinking experience.
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Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...