Bourbon

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 15-Year-Old Bourbon

BCS Bourbon Solo Photo.jpg

Photo courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits

The folks behind the always interesting Barrell Bourbon have launched a new high-end, limited release line – Barrell Craft Spirits (BCS).  The initial release consists of a 25-year-old American whiskey finished in Sercial Madeira casks, a 13-year-old rum, and a 15-year-old bourbon.

The latter is a batching of bourbon from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.  Like all releases from the company, BCS bourbon is bottled at cask strength.  In this case, that 105.1 proof.  At 15-years-old, BCS bourbon is the oldest bourbon released by the company since Barrell Bourbon batch 009, which was aged 13 years.

BCS founder Joe Beatrice and Master Distiller Tripp Stimson constantly blend their whiskies until they find something interesting.  Every batch of their bourbon I’ve tasted has been a journey into their mindset, so to speak.  For BCS 15-year-old bourbon, the words “rich and refined” seem to have dominated their thoughts.

The nose features a cornucopia of aromas: ripe fruits, specifically bananas & cherries, baking spice, brown sugar & molasses, toasted oak, leather, and sweet tobacco.  On the palate, a sweet burst of brown sugar and creamy caramel is complemented by dark chocolate-covered cherries, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon stick.  There’s a richness here that comes across as a fruit-topped custard.  An underlying old oak note adds some complexity.  Hints of leather, cocoa, and barrel char arrive on the back palate.  The long, dry finish sees butterscotch, spice, and a hint of scorched black cherries.

This is hands down one of the most complex bourbons I’ve sampled in quite a while.  At 15-years-old, the whiskey’s oak notes provide a solid base to elevate the other flavors instead of overpowering.  Throughout the development of flavors, BCS bourbon manages to remain well-balanced. That is something both Beatrice and Stimson aim for in each batch.  I can see why Fred Minnick named this the Best American Whiskey of 2018.  While everyone is clamoring for Pappy Van Winkle or the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, the smart play is to seek this bourbon out.  My initial thought still stands – this bourbon is stunning.  9.5/10

barrellbourbon.com

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