Updated December 23, 2015
By Richard Thomas
Back in August, Lexington, Kentucky’s Barrel House Distillery transitioned from making moonshine, rum and vodka and into making proper whiskey by releasing their RockCastle Bourbon. Avid Travel Channel watchers or fans of British presenters Jeni & Ollie should note, however, that this is not the same stuff that Ollie Smith tried when he called on Barrel House in his Southern Food Adventures.
You see, that stuff was (at the time) seven year old bourbon aged in full-size barrels, which would make it among the first stuff distilled by Barrel House. It’s been sitting there, marking time ever since. Presumably they don’t think it’s done yet, although Ollie was allowed to sample some from the barrel. RockCastle is of different stock, a two year old wheated bourbon aged in 25 gallon barrels of new Virginia oak.
The sample I tried at Barrel House came from Batch 02, and was bottled at cask strength, 59.05% abv (118.1 proof). The nose delivered those core bourbon values of sweet corn and caramel, seasoned with cinnamon. Following that pleasant, but simple nose, the flavor was surprisingly sophisticated. It was honey, almost malty sweet, smacking of toffee and seasoned with cinnamon and a bit of sandalwood. The woody tinge had the character of toasty pine. The finish was very much on the light side, especially for a cask strength.
Each batch has reportedly been of about 500 bottles, and prices outside the distillery are listed at a steep $90.
Correction and update: I was misinformed at the distillery, and RockCastle is drawn from a mixture of 25-gallon and 53-gallon barrel sources. Also, the recommended price for RockCastle is $74.99, so note that the $90 price tag from online retailers is a hefty mark-up.