By Richard Thomas
For those who obsess over age statements as the first (and perhaps only) statement of quality, Barrell Bourbon Batch 009 must be the most eagerly anticipated of that independent bottler’s releases. The reason is printed in two simple numerals on the label: 13, as in 13 years old. None of the Barrell Bourbon batches thus far has been as old as 10 years, and most of them have floated down in the mature, but not especially old five to six year range.
This particular 13 Year Old is a Tennessee-made 75% corn, 18% rye, 7% malt mash bill Bourbon, aged in both the Volunteer State and across the border in Kentucky. The from-the-barrel bottling on this one gives it a 112.1 proof (56.05% ABV). That is a fairly low strength for an older whiskey, and that suggests either a correspondingly low entry proof or a batch of extraordinarily tight barrels that held off the angels. It certainly wasn’t a string of mild summers.
Batch 009 has a clear, reddish amber coloring, very much in the middle of the range. As with the only fair strong proof for an older cask strength bottling, that lighter color is also unusual, as one would expect it to be darker. The liquid streams respectable legs on the glass.
The scent is that of toasted oak, cooked just enough for a hint of barrel char, with notes of coconut and vanilla resting on the top.
The flavor is lively and fruity, but also just a bit hotter than I was expecting for a whiskey with alcohol content in the middle 50s. Even so, it’s a mellow heat and easy to handle, especially with the lightly creamy mouthfeel. It’s simple, sweet with plenty of vanilla, and the dry oaky spices one expects from an American whiskey of this age on the back end.
The finish opens on that dry, oaky, spicy note, but as that fades away I found myself left with a toasted nuttiness. All of this was quite warming, of course. No surprises there.
All in all, this profile on Batch 009 straddles what I’d expect from an older Bourbon of its pedigree, with just enough variance to make it a little interesting. It’s an excellent introduction to the realm of older, cask strength Bourbons. Given how rare those are on the shelf these days, it should be snapped up on that basis alone, especially since it’s more approachable than a peer like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.
At this time, the price point for Barrell Bourbon batches is holding at $90.