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Broken Barrel Whiskey Uses Non-Traditional Barrel Finishing For Focus On New Flavors

Broken Barrel Whiskey officially reintroduced its core lineup of now exclusively Kentucky straight bourbon and rye whiskeys, distilled by eighth-generation Master Distiller Jacob Call at the historic Owensboro Distilling Co.

Broken Barrel founder and CEO, Seth Benhaim, explained that there’s what he feels is a missed opportunity in traditional barrel finishing … the reliance on one type of barrel used to finish one type of whiskey.

He noted that Broken Barrel was created to “expand the barrel finishing concept,” involving not only broken barrel staves (as opposed to intact barrels), but also the combination of multiple barrel types, all finishing aged bourbon in tandem.

Broken Barrel Whiskeys
Broken Barrel Whiskeys (image via Broken Barrel)

“We always say that the truth is in the barrel,” Benhaim said in a prepared statement. “Contact with the oak gives whiskey its character and charisma and defines the final whiskey. It’s responsible for 80 percent of the flavor tasted in every sip, which is why we further age and finish our whiskeys using various combinations of barrel types.”

Once Broken Barrel whiskey ages for a minimum of two years, the barrels are selected, dumped and batched in a large tank. The broken barrel staves from various casks are then added to further age and finish the whiskey.

Benhaim said that while most whiskey enthusiasts are familiar with a mash bill, or combination of grains used, he actually coined the term “Oak Bill” to denote the combination of barrel staves from different types of barrels used in each expression, as listed on every one of their bottles.

The core portfolio of products, each of which feature a new look and their unique “Oak Bills,” include:

  • Small Batch ($35) – A bold, oak-forward 95-proof KY straight bourbon with a spicy finish. Notes of vanilla-laced cake batter and a candy corn sweetness.
    Mash Bill: 70% Corn, 21% Rye, 9% Barley
    Oak Bill: 40% Ex-Bourbon, 40% New French Oak, 20% Sherry Cask
  • California Oak ($35) – An 88-proof KY Straight Bourbon meets California’s Central Coast, using Cabernet Sauvignon barrels as the prominent oak finish. Balanced caramel sweetness, with dates and dark fruit, and a tannic finish.
    Mash Bill: 70% Corn, 21% Rye, 9% Barley
    Oak Bill: 80% California Cabernet Casks, 20% New French Oak
    Awards: Gold Medal, 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Tasting Panel 2022 (91 points)
  • Heresy Rye ($35) – A sherry influenced, double oaked, 105-proof straight rye whiskey featuring sweet cooked vanilla, freshly prepared dough, with traces of charred oak, marzipan sweetness and a spicy rye finish.
    Mash Bill: 95% Rye, 5% Barley
    Oak Bill: 40% Ex-Bourbon, 40% New French Oak, 20% Sherry Cask
    Awards: Gold Medal, 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Tasting Panel 2022 (93 points)
  • Cask Strength ($45) – A big bourbon at 115 Proof with hints of fresh blackberry, caramel, notes of orange, corn and cinnamon spice on the finish.
    Mash Bill: 70% Corn, 21% Rye, 9% Barley
    Oak Bill: 40% Ex-Bourbon, 40% New French Oak, 20% Sherry Cask
    Awards: Tasting Panel 2022 (94 points)

As they continue in the spirit of experimentation, Broken Barrel will regularly issue special releases that incorporate barrel staves from various combinations of unique casks sourced from around the world.

They’re currently filling their Los Angeles whiskey warehouse by collecting and breaking barrels, experimenting with aging and blending, and tasting and bottling new limited-release and single barrel projects.

For more information, check out

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Gary Carter

Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether that be a novel project, a start-up, an organization, a fresh-face to the journalistic world, or even something as simple as a short story. A native Texan and a Pacific Northwest convert, he is a whiskey enthusiast who cut his teeth on it ... literally!

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