By Richard Thomas
Joe Beatrice’s Barrell Bourbon are fast building a reputation as the bottlers you go to if you want to find something strong and a little offbeat from the stocks of the Kentucky and Tennessee “Majors” (i.e. big distilleries). The new Batch 005 is a case in point. Thus far, most of Barrell Bourbon’s batches were distilled in Tennessee from mashbills that suggest they have come from stock made at George Dickel for use in other Diageo projects and shipped to Kentucky for aging.
Yet each batch has had its own distinct character, and Batch 005 is no exception. It’s a bruiser of a bourbon, weighing in at 124.7 proof (62.3% abv), and it’s billed as the spiciest yet of the Barrell Bourbon releases. Being familiar with only some of the line, I’ll have to take their word on that point, but it’s certainly a potent in both the spice and the proof boxes.
The question of how that bold spiciness came to be should serve as an object lesson to bourbon fans that these things sometimes have more to do with the rye in the mashbill, because the mashbill here is a fairly average 70% corn, 26% rye and 4% malt, that being only 1% more rye and less malt than previous batches coming out of the Tennessee-distilled stock.
Aged for eight years and three months, the color is in middle amber territory, a red base with a squirt of brown stirred in, granting it an earthy, clay-like appearance.
With whiskeys over 120 proof, I proceed with the knowledge that I may need to add water. The nose was approachable as is, although it gave me the strong suggestion that water would be required. The vapor didn’t burn my nostrils, but it was so big and bold that the scent was as crowded as a Japanese subway at rush hour. So, in went a capful of water.
With the water in my dram, the nose melds corn sweetness with a apple blossoms, seasoned by a strong current of vanilla, pie spices and cedar. On the palate, the creamy corn sweetness holds true as the fruitiness shifts from apples to orange zest, with a strong undercurrent of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cedar, rounded out with just a pinch barrel char. It has bite, but even before the water that came more from the spice than the alcohol content. The finish is warm and lasting, flowing from a sweet, spicy, dry place.
If you like your whiskey high proof and boldly spiced, Barrell Bourbon Batch 005 is something to put on your “must try” list.
Expect to pay $85 to $95. At that price, this makes for a nice alternative if you can’t find higher profile, high octane releases like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.