Joe Beatrice

Review: Barrell Craft Spirits 25-Year-Old Whiskey

As part of its one-two-three punch of initial releases, Barrell Craft Spirits (BCS) has unveiled a marvelous 15-year-old bourbon, 13-year-old rum, and this 25-year-old American whiskey.  A quarter of a century is a helluva long time to age whiskey here in the U.S.  It’s quite rare, in fact.  And of those releases that do carry such a high age statement, even fewer are not dominated by oak.

BCS bottles everything at cask strength, non-colored, and non-chill filtered.  The company believes it’s the best way to present a spirit.  I don’t disagree.  This whiskey was distilled and aged in Indiana.  It’s American whiskey and not bourbon, which could mean used casks have been used for maturation or the mash bill wasn’t at least 51% corn.  The truth is we don’t know because BCS didn’t divulge that information.  They did say that after 25 years of aging, the whiskey was finished in Sercial Madeira casks.

First releases mean first impressions, and the bar by which the label will be judged by in the future.  How does BCS 25-year-old whiskey fare in the glass?  Unsurprisingly, quite well.

The nose carries hints of toasted oak, vibrant red fruit, spice, roasted almonds, and dark chocolate.  Some air reveals a bit of dark caramel.  At 111.2 proof, it doesn’t need much water, if any.  A burst of molasses is quickly joined by lime juice, toasted marshmallow, vanilla pod and sweet red fruit.  Baking spices develop, as does leather and oak, which begins drying the back palate.  The long, warming, and slightly dry finish leaves behind candied fruit, dark chocolate, and old oak.

The Madeira cask finish really brightens things up.  The sweet, vibrant fruit plays well with the heavier oak and spice notes.  We could have easily ended up with another oak-dominated, ultra-aged whiskey.  Instead, BCS 25-year-old whiskey presents a profile much more balanced than expected.  Nicely done.  8.5/10

barrellbourbon.com

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

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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

barrellbourbon.com

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

Barrellbourbon.com

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