By Randall H. Borkus
Barrell Craft Spirits, the independent bottler behind Barrell Bourbon, Barrell Whiskey and Barrell Rum, announced recently that they would be getting into the business of opening a distillery in Louisville and making their own in-house spirits. Their plant will be a strongly production-oriented facility with few frills, stepping away from the stylish, tourist-friendly distilleries that have become the norm of the day. Barrell Craft Spirits named Tripp Stimson, formerly a lab scientist at Brown-Forman and Master Distiller at the Kentucky Artisan Distillery, as Master Distiller.
Barrell Bourbon has built a strong fan base over the past four years, principally on its Barrell Bourbon releases. Their two strong points with fans going all cask strength and being as transparent about their sourcing as possible. To this was added Barrell Whiskey, which while truly American was not aged entirely in new oak. Finally, the company recently got into the rum business as well with Barrell Rum. Here they are creating a magic flavor profile for us whiskey lovers who enjoy sweetness, spicy cinnamon and with a dry oak finish normally found in mature expressions.
Barrell Whiskey Batch #004 was distilled in both Indiana and Tennessee, and aged for 11 years in used American oak barrels. From there, they finished the juice in both ex-rum casks and old rye barrels, and both sources of stock were finished in both types of casks, creating four different strains that were blended together. The blend was then bottled in Kentucky at a batch strength of 120.6 proof (60.3% ABV). They selected barrels of a Tennessee whiskey and an Indiana whiskey for this batch. Each of the two whiskeys were finished in either rum casks left over from Barrell Rum Batch 001 production, or rye barrels to add flavor and spice.
My Batch 004 bottle #5049 whiskey looks almost gold, like field hay or butterscotch with healthy legs clinging to my glass. The nose contains hints of honey, pineapple, toasted grain, oak spice and sweet aromas of more traditional flavors such as vanilla, butterscotch, mature grains with nice balance and complex flavor profile for the most discerning whiskey lover.
The mouthfeel is warm and vibrant, and the flavors burst with sweet honey, oak spics and burnt fruit candy, all wrapped up with a toasted grain and oaky overtones. The finish is sweet with bold honey and rum candy which quickly transitions into cinnamon oak spices that fade back into honey rum with hints of wood dryness that is just delightful.
My take is that Batch 004 offers an extravagant drinking experience, one that invites repeated pours.
The official price on Batch 004 is $90. However, I saw it in Chicago-area retailers for $75, and my sampling of online retailers showed a range of $65 to $75.