review

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.

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Review: Booker’s Bourbon 2018-01 (Kathleen’s Batch)

The first of four 2018 batches of Booker’s is hitting shelves now. Batch 2018-01, also known as “Kathleen’s Batch” is a Booker’s Roundtable selection, picked with the help of longtime Beam employee Kathleen DiBenedetto. She helped with the launch of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection with Booker Noe and was also the collection’s first brand manager. This bourbon’s namesake took DiBenedetto under his wings and made her learn every step of the bourbon-making process. In 2015, she was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Clearly, DiBenedetto is no stranger to whiskey.

Now for this particulars of this batch. Kathleen’s Batch is six years, three months, and 14 days old. Those are the youngest barrels in the batch. Barrels come from five production dates and culled from three warehouses. As always, Booker’s is uncut and unfiltered.

Like every batch of Booker’s before it, the nose here is fantastic. Buttered sweet corn bread and maple syrup give way to vanilla and aromatic toasted oak. The palate is equally inviting. Brown sugar and pecan-topped coffee cake kick things off followed by waves of dried fruit, oak spice, and that Booker’s trademark vanilla. A touch of bittersweet barrel char hit the back palate along with medium roast coffee beans. The long, warming finish is sweet and slightly dry, with a lingering rich caramel and sweet oak note.

Damn, this is good. This batch of Booker’s comes across as richer and a bit sweeter than previous batches of late. The Booker’s Roundtable picked a wonderful batch that is still “Booker’s” in every sense while offering something extra. Booker’s is a batched product. BUT…here it’s like if all Booker’s was a single barrel product and this particular batch was a honey barrel. It’s that good. This one will be hard to beat. Wow. 9/10

Bookersbourbon.com

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

Review: Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut Bourbon

Every blue moon, a value whiskey comes around that’ll have me doing a double take.  This is one of those whiskies.  Jim Beam just released their limited release Distiller’s Cut.  The straight bourbon is aged five to six years, un-chill filtered, bottled at 100 proof, and priced at $23.  Let me restate that.  Aged five to six years, un-chill filtered, bottled at 100 proof, and priced at $23.  Yep, a double take whiskey.

Distiller’s Cut is five to six years old, which puts it in Jim Beam Black Label territory in terms of age.  Black Label used to be eight years old, but lost its age statement a few years back.  Chill filtering is applied to most whiskies.  It’s done to keep the whiskey clear when adding water or ice.  Skipping the chill filtering allows the whiskey to retain all those fatty acids that help contribute to flavor and mouthfeel.  So, when you add some ice and your whiskey clouds up, it’s completely normal.  Jim Beam didn’t mess around when it came to proof, leaving Distiller’s Cut at a hearty 50% ABV.  This just about guarantees a big, bold flavor.  The surprise is the price.  A bottle will set you back $23, but you’ll most likely find it for less than that. That’s even cheaper than Jim Beam Black Label!

The nose is signature Jim Beam, full of caramel and vanilla with a touch of nuttiness, spice and oak.  Here the aromas are a bit more cohesive than the standard Jim Beam White Label and more robust than the Black Label, thanks to the higher proof.  Taste-wise, we’re talking about hints of caramel chews, grilled corn, charred oak, vanilla bean and a sprinkling of baking spice and herbs.  The finish is medium-long with a sweet and spicy cinnamon cake note.

Wow.  The whole experience for $23 or less?  Is this an answer to the criticism of late concerning some of  Beam Suntory’s high-priced releases like Knob Creek 25th Anniversary or Booker’s Rye?  If so, Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut is a proclamation that great bourbon doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Off the top of my head, the only other options that comes to mind when I think of a big, robust bourbon at around $23 is Elijah Craig Small Batch or Henry McKenna BIB.  And generally those are priced a few bucks higher.  If you know of a better value than Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut, I’m all ears.  Keep in mind this is a limited run, so find a bottle sooner than later. Jim Beam should consider making this a permanent entry in their lineup.  Highly recommended!  8.5/10

Jimbeam.com

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