Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 017

Barrell Bourbon ended 2018 with its last bourbon release of the year – Batch 017. This is a 10 year, 4 month old cask strength bourbon, meaning that’s the age of the youngest whiskey in the batch. However, 14 and 15-year-old barrels were also utilized here. The whiskies used in batch 017 were distilled in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.

Barrell calls this batch “an homage to a style of bourbon we love, which has become increasingly hard to find.” If you’re new to Barrell Bourbon, instead of keeping a consistent flavor profile from batch to batch, the company prefers for each batch to be different in style. In fact, it’s part of their motto, “Each batch is unique.” The only consistency between batches is the cask-strength bottling. Batch 017 comes in at 56.25% ABV, or 112.5 proof.

On the nose, warming baking spices mingle with orchard fruit and hints of toasted oak, minerals, and herbs. The palate is rich with initial notes of English toffee, juicy plums, berries, and fresh lime. A bit of charred pineapple arrives late, followed by restrained oak and some spice. The long finish finds lingering notes of fruit juice, mint, flint, and oak.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 017 is a decadent bourbon, wonderfully balancing fruit, spice, oak, and mineral notes. It is both unpretentious in nature and complex in flavor, perfect as a Sunday afternoon pour or an after dinner digestif. I tend to really enjoy Barrell Bourbon releases, but this one stands above the crowd. Liquid gold, even. Seek out a bottle, friends. You will thank me later. 9/10

Barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the review sample, which is a production bottle. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Booker’s 30th Anniversary Bourbon

Booker’s bourbon has been going strong for 30 years, and the brand is celebrating with this limited edition release. Since I got into whiskey, I’ve seen (and enjoyed) two other Booker’s special releases – their 10-year-old 25th Anniversary bourbon and 13-year-old rye whiskey. Both were phenomenal releases, so I greatly anticipated this new one.

Louisiana only got a handful of cases, and close to half of those went to on-premise accounts which didn’t leave a lot leftover for retail. I’m glad I found a bottle for just under the suggested retail price of $199. Thank goodness for those strong retail relationships.

The whiskey itself is comprised of about 70% 9-year-old bourbon and about 30% 16-year-old bourbon. Very early in the process, it was reported to be a 16-year-old release. However, Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe decided it was too oak forward and added the younger stock.

As is consistent with the brand, Booker’s 30th Anniversary is bottled uncut and unfiltered at 62.9% ABV, or 125.8 proof. According to the brand, barrels for this batch came from three different floors in warehouse H and E. Percentages break down as follows:

  • Warehouse H, 3rd floor – 12%
  • Warehouse H, 4th floor – 29%
  • Warehouse H, 5th floor – 11%
  • Warehouse E, 5th floor – 48%

The nose is full of rich caramel and vanilla – Booker’s usual profile. However, the caramel is darker and vanilla is more aromatic. The older whiskey shows through as well, providing a prominent toasted oak note, as well as some oak spice. The palate sees sweet oak as a driver, but it’s beautifully integrated with dark brown sugar, molasses, vanilla bean, and a slight earthiness. Leather and oak spice develop in the back palate. By the way, this is perfectly drinkable at this high proof – no water required. The finish is short-to-medium, becoming slightly dry.

My initial casual pour was quite satisfactory. However, going back for a second pour a few days later saw an improvement. The caramel and vanilla sweet notes seemed to be turned up a notch, slightly taming the drier oak notes. There’s more depth and complexity compared to standard Booker’s releases. I really like this bourbon, though I wish the finish were longer. That’s really my only criticism. The short, dry finish keeps this whiskey from hitting the high marks achieved by Booker’s 25th Anniversary and Booker’s Rye. That said, this bourbon is certainly no slouch. It’s a very well-crafted release. The decision by Noe to add the 9-year-old bourbon turned out to be a smart one. Even with the shorter finish, Booker’s 30th Anniversary comes highly recommended. 9/10

Review: Barrell Craft Spirits 13-Year-Old Rum

This 13-year-old rum is among the first wave of Barrell Craft Spirits (BCS) releases alongside an exquisite 15-year-old bourbon and complex 25-year-old American whiskey.  Barrell Craft Spirits is a new upscale line from the folks behind the popular Barrell Bourbon.  If you follow this blog, you already know how big a fan I am.  Don’t believe me – just search my site for Barrell.

Rums from Barbados, Jamaica, and Guyana that were at least 13 years old were blended together at cask strength, which in this case is 124.2 proof.  The company’s first rum, released in 2016, was pretty damn tasty.

On the nose, BCS rum features notes of buttery toffee, ripe plantain, and a slight herbal quality.  There’s also a bit of tea and cognac in the background.  The palate offers hints of molasses, oak spice, coconut shavings, and vibrant lime zest.  Those spices ramp up heading into the long finish, which is as warm as a Kentucky hug.  I preferred the rum with a touch of water, which brought about a bit more sweetness.

The barrels that make up this blend were almost released as single barrels.  I’m glad they weren’t.  As good as those barrels may have been, blending them together is probably the better decision.  I base that statement on the quality and drinkability of past spirit releases from Barrell.  I’ve tasted a couple of their single barrel bourbons, and while they were tasty, they didn’t hold a candle to every other Barrell release, which was a blend.  In other words, Barrell’s strength lies in their blending ability.  With that, BCS rum is a delicious, hearty, and complex release.  Captain Morgan this is not.  8.5/10

barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.