whiskey

Review: Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel Project (Feb 12, 2018 bottling)

A number of whiskey enthusiasts are creating infinity bottles. When they have a pour or two of a special whiskey left, they add it to a decanter. They quickly create their own blend, one that’s always changing as new whiskies are added.

Barrell Craft Spirits has embarked on a unique journey with its new Infinite Barrel Project, borrowing from the infinity bottle idea. To start, several different types of whiskies were batched together, including Tennessee whiskey, Tennessee rye, Indiana whiskey (finished in Oloroso Sherry butts), Indiana rye, Polish malted rye (finished in Curoçao barrels), single malt scotch, single grain scotch, and Irish whiskey.

As the company bottles a portion of the batch, new whiskies are added and left for a time to marry. The consumer will see an ever-evolving product, which should be fun to compare.

The first bottling (Feb 12, 2018) comes in at 119.3 proof. The nose is a touch closed off at first, but opens with a little airtime. Orange marmalade and pot still whiskey dominate the nose at first, followed by hints of honey, marzipan and fresh fruit. The palate is rich with fruit cake, baking spices (especially ginger), and toffee. Feint hints of candied orange peel and buttery malt appear mid-palate. The back palate sees bit of oak tannin. The long finish features lingering notes of salted caramel and red pepper.

I had a chance to sample this whiskey with Barrell founder Joe Beatrice and Head Distiller Tripp Stimson at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival earlier this year. I thought it was a unique flavor then, and it has stuck with me these past few weeks. After tasting it again, I have come to appreciate it even more. Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel Project stands out as a ‘must try’ whiskey, one that commands your attention upon tasting. And one that you’ll want to compare to future bottlings. Recommended! 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: 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.

The 2018 New Orleans Bourbon Festival

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New Orleans Bourbon Festival 2017: a chat with Fred Noe and Eddie Russell, moderated by yours truly.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

Back for its second year, the New Orleans Bourbon Festival really didn’t have to change much from its first outing in 2017.  It wasn’t just a successful first year festival.  It was a successful festival, period.  But the festival’s founders aren’t resting on their laurels.

Tracy Napolitano, one of the festival’s founders, is the only full-time employee.  After taking a short breather following last year’s festival, Tracy and fellow founders took all the feedback they received to heart.  Their mission was to improve upon their first outing without losing its spirit.

The festival takes place Thursday, March 8th through Saturday, March 10th.  Festivities kick off with several bourbon dinners at restaurants around New Orleans, each sponsored by a different brand.

Like last year, this year’s festival features two Grand Tasting nights filled with pours from both large and craft brands.  The biggest change is the inclusion of all American whiskey.  The first festival was generally limited to bourbon only.  That means a whole lot of rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and more.  More than 100 different whiskies will be poured.  If you happen to see me at one of the Grand Tastings, please say hi.  I’ll be the guy with the glass of whiskey in his hand.

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You can’t drink whiskey and not smile.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

In addition, this year’s VIP ticket holders are getting more attention.  Some really special pours can be expected in the VIP area.  I’ve been told the list confidentially, and yeah… those VIPs should definitely heed the phrase ‘first come, first serve.’  Better yet, “the early bird gets the worm.”  There’s also a special welcome reception for VIPs entitled “Bourbon & Burlesque.”  ‘Nuff said.

Again this year is a whiskey judging by Ultimate VIP ticket holders.  From what I’m told, these tickets sell quickly.  We’re less than three weeks away.  Go get your tickets now.

Seminars have been spread over two days, now taking place the Friday and Saturday of the festival, which gives folks more access to attend more seminars.  This year’s speaker lineup is a doozy, featuring Fred Minnick, Michael Veach, Peggy Noe Stevens, Bernie Lubbers, Maggie Kimberl, Trey Zoeller, and many, many more.

The festival’s theme this year is “Generations,” a theme very important in American whiskey.  I again have the pleasure of moderating not one but two panels related to that theme. On Friday, I’ll chat with Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and his son, Freddie.  Saturday, you’ll find me moderating Eddie Russell and his son, Bruce.  I simply cannot wait!

Festival proceeds go to Kids Can Nola, a new non-profit benefitting the welfare of children.  It’s a classy touch from the festival founders.

I’m sure this year’s festival will far surpass last year’s wonderful inaugural event.  NOLA and bourbon are made for each other.  If Kentucky is bourbon’s wife, New Orleans is definitely the whiskey’s mistress.

NewOrleansBourbonFestival.com