By Richard Thomas
Joe Beatrice’s Barrell Bourbon established itself last year as one of America’s top bottlers, a company that just might be able to show doubting American whiskey nerds that you don’t necessarily need to make the stuff to be able to add substantial value to it. Because I live in Europe, my getting to know Barrell Bourbon’s batches was delayed, but it came around eventually and I’m glad it did.
Part of the fun with following Barrell Bourbon is reading the tea leaves and deducing where the stuff came from. Many of their batches, such as Batch 005, were distilled in Tennessee and aged in Kentucky, just enough information to tantalize. Others, like Batch 004, were made and aged in Kentucky, and without exact mashbill information to help with guessing, could have come from any of the “Kentucky Majors.”
What can be said is that Barrell Bourbon Batch 004 is a 6 year, four month old cask strength bourbon, coming in at 116.7 proof (58.4% abv). The production run was 1,514 bottles.
In the glass, Batch 004 has a syrupy, middling amber appearance. The coloring is reddish, with a dollop of brown stirred in.
A sniff told me I needed to add some water, so in went a couple of capfuls. This snuffed out the high octane burn, allowing me to get a handle on the powerful current of cedar, scored with notes of corn syrup sweetness, mint, caramel, and just a touch of dill.
Just as the nose was very wood-forward, what with the strong cedar aspect, so was the flavor. The creamy liquid delivered a solid blend of woodiness, mostly cedar and pine, sat on the top, layered over like floor planking. Struggling for attention underneath were more typical bourbon flavors: oaky caramel, corn syrup, a little orange zest. The finish was peppery and woody, winding down with lengthy, moderate warmth.
I didn’t like this Barrel Bourbon as much as I have the other batches I’ve tried. Batch 004 is a nice sipper, but the combination of very wood-forward and cask strength just didn’t hit it off with me. Even so, that is the sort of thing where I can easily see how not everyone will agree with me, and I certainly wouldn’t turn it away if it were offered to me.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 004 is still out there, and is listed at $79.99.