Joe Beatrice

Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 015

After trying batch after delicious batch of Barrell Bourbon, I finally had the chance to meet its founder, Joe Beatrice, and Master Distiller Tripp Stimson.  During this year’s New Orleans Bourbon Festival, we talked about Barrell Bourbon Batch 015, among other things.

When starting his company, Beatrice told me he wanted to put out a whiskey people really wanted to drink.  “We built a brand.  We were all about being as transparent as we could be.  We were all about only putting in the bottle what we thought was the best quality product and what people want to drink.” said Beatrice.  “As we got accepted and as we grew, we knew we were going to build a distillery, but we were going to continue with the whiskey merchant model.  As the distillery comes online, we’ll blend in some of our product.  But we’re going to continue to work on the aged spirits.  It’s a model that’s worked for us.”

When asked about how they come up with a new batch, Stimson said, “it kind of depends on what we’re working on, whether it be a bourbon or American whiskey or rye.  We’ll have a conversation and say ‘the last time we did this particular type of spirit, we did X.’  We try to do something else.  We’ll look at some of the barrels we have and put together a kind of base flavor.”

After tasting initial blends, the duo would figure out what’s missing and try to find that in their existing stock of barrels.

“We do that until we both say ‘Ah ha! There it is!'” said Stimson.  “Once we get to that point it’s literally a light switch.”

Beatrice added, “that can happen in a couple of days or sometimes a few weeks.”

For Batch 015, Beatrice said the ‘ah-ha’ moment was when he picked up Juicy Fruit in a particular blend.  He said, “after tasting, we both look at each other and said ‘that’s it!’ Bottle it.”

They were initially looking to make Batch 015 a larger batch than previous ones, but they couldn’t keep that precise flavor profile if they went larger.  Quality over quantity indeed.

Batch 015 is nine and a half years old, bottled at 107.6 proof.  Barrels come from Tennessee and Kentucky.  The nose is full of ripe fruit, as well as baking spice, caramel and toasted oak notes.  Upon first sip, that Juicy Fruit character that Joe mentions is evident.  Lots of sweet and ripe apples, peaches and cherries upfront.  There is a rich caramel base underneath.  Cutting through is a bit of oak spice and burnt orange peel.  Lovely.  The medium length finish leaves a touch of sweet fruit, leather and spice.

We have another wonderful batch of Barrell Bourbon.  It’s probably the fruitiest one they’ve released.  It still remains nicely balanced, with those oak and spice notes keeping the sweeter and fruitier notes in check.

I like the idea of a unique flavor profile with each batch.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I haven’t come across a bad or mediocre release from Barrell Craft Spirits.  Batch 015 certainly exceeds being described as just enjoyable, with its complex aromas and flavors begging to be explored. 9/10

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


Barrell Bourbon Batch 011 Review

Gaining a larger following with each batch, Barrell Craft Spirits has released their latest bourbon.  Batch 011 is a six-year-old bourbon distilled in Tennessee.  Like previous releases, Batch 011 is bottled at cask strength.  In this case 57.4%, or 114.8 proof.  The mash bill for this one is 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley.  The high amount of rye should provide a bit of extra spice.  Let’s see how it fares.

The nose kicks things off with spices (cinnamon, allspice, cloves) thanks to the rye grain, followed by thick caramel.  A little airtime develops a bit of sweet corn, along with a buttery dough that reminds me of unbaked cinnamon rolls.  The entry is a little hot, with initial notes of light caramel and slightly sharp rye spice.  There’s a little development beyond that, with hints of cinnamon candy and some herbs emerging.  The finish is chest-warming, and surprisingly clean, with just a short burst of light brown sugar and cinnamon.

In our current “older is better” age (not true, by the way), a six-year-old bourbon might grab the attention of those looking for older releases.  There’s definitely quality in the crafting of the whiskies that make up this batch.  Batch 011 might not turn heads, but it is a beautiful example of a delicious, classic bourbon and shouldn’t be overlooked.  8/10

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

Barrell Bourbon Batch 008 Review

What we have here is the oldest bourbon released by Barrell Bourbon.  Batch 008 is aged for nine and a half years.  It’s also the highest proofed whiskey released by the company, clocking in at 132.8 proof.  That’s high enough to put a little hair on your chest, as they say.  Like the last few batches, Batch 008 was also distilled and aged in Tennessee.  It also shares the same mash bill of 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley.

I’m a relative newcomer to Barrell Bourbon, starting my journey with Batch 005 last year.  Batch 005 and 006 are among my favorite bourbons of the last couple of years.  Both of those were aged only eight years.  Batch 007 was a five year old release that showed great complexity for such a young whiskey.  Three exceptional bourbon releases.  Does Barrell Bourbon owner Joe Beatrice continue this winning streak with Batch 008?

The nose on this whiskey is intense.  Slightly burnt caramel, dark chocolate, spice cake and red cherries flow out of the glass.  Taste-wise, we’re talking about a spicy whiskey here:  cinnamon bark, dark brown sugar, sharp toasted grain, nutmeg, cherry liqueur, and creamy homemade vanilla ice cream. The spice hits hard at first, then slightly mellows and allows for a creamy mouthfeel to come forth.  The finish is hot, which is no surprise given the high proof, and leaves behind notes of cinnamon tinged pastry and slightly astringent oak.  A splash of water sweetens things up a tad.

One note about this whiskey – it’s not as sweet as the nose suggests.  It instead falls rather high on the spicy and dry scale. I find it interesting that Batch 008 starts off spicy, but then morphs into an elegant mix of spiced fruit and cream, and ends up dry.  Not dry in a bad way. Quite the opposite.  It makes you want to take another sip, and before you know it your glass is empty.  That, to me, is the sign of a magnificent whiskey.  This is the most complex Barrell Bourbon release to date.  Recommended!  8.5/10

Thanks to Joe Beatrice for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.