By Richard Thomas
To mark the start of 2017 (or perhaps celebrate the end of 2016, which has been an abysmal year in so many ways), Barrell Bourbon has released a new style of product to its line up: a blend drawing from three separate distilleries.
Heretofore, Barrell Bourbon has offered sourced, cask strength bourbon, but always coming from not just one distillery at a time, but a single distilling season as well. Barrell Bourbon New Year 2017 draws on stock ranging from 5 to 13 years of age, and coming from Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. The best guesses there would be George Dickel-made general bourbon stock made for Diageo; Heaven Hill; and MGP. The cask strength aspect was kept, with the blend coming out at 117 proof (58.5% ABV).
The look of the liquid sits in that part of the middle amber spectrum where gold turns over into copper, and it runs with thick, long legs.
In keeping with what I expect from a below 120 proof bourbon, the nose offers no burn at all even without water. Brown sugar and vanilla bean are highlighted by toasted corn husk, a little nuttiness, and a note of well-used leather. It’s a surprisingly restrained scent for a cask strength whiskey, but that isn’t a bad thing, since it allows a relatively complex character to get its full personality out into the light of day.
The flavor is very much in traditional bourbon territory: corn sweetness with vanilla and cookie spices, with a trace of oak and a generous spoonful of barrel char. It’s flavorful, but not as big and bold as the high proof might suggest. Once again, no water is required to enjoy the Barrell Bourbon New Year 2017 (although there is certainly no harm in adding a little).
From there, the finish turns simple. It’s warm and lasting, while leaving a modest, candied aftertaste.
While certainly a worthy Barrell Bourbon overall, the most noteworthy aspect of this particular release is the smoky side of it. That is one whiskey flavor that has yet to make a statement in the Barrell Bourbon repertoire, but it’s certainly in this one, and that is worth checking out.
The price point for this one is, as with recent Barrell Bourbon releases, $79.99 a bottle.