By Debbie Shocair
Well the American whiskey boom seems to have hit its stride, and I suspect we are in for a marathon run. Despite concerns of shortages and complaints that the good times are over, what is one the shelves is generally good and often getting better. Even skilled blenders, who source rather than distill their whiskey, are doing a fine job of it.
Such is the case with Barrell Whiskey. They are absolutely transparent about the fact that (at least for now, though the future may hold some very exciting things for them!) that they source their product, then blend, finish and bottle it. I have reviewed their Bourbon Batch 011, and found it was really very good. On top of their transparency, it’s their habit to bottle their products at cask strength, which is a thrill to many serious whiskey lovers and one more very good reason to seek out Barrell’s products. I have heard from a few whiskey-loving friends that it isn’t always easy to find, but I am happy to say that it is definitely worth the effort.
Barrell Whiskey Batch 004 was blended from 11 year old whiskey distilled in Indiana and Tennessee, and finished in used rum casks (from Barrell Rum Batch 001) and rye barrels before being bottled at a rather hefty 120.6 proof (60.3% ABV). Drawing from two sources and two finishes makes this a real showcase of Barrell Whiskey’s growing blending talent.
On the nose… well, think rum raisin ice cream, heavy with vanilla and custard. Breaking it with ½ teaspoon of water lightened the vanilla notes somewhat and moved them aside just enough to reveal faint hints of toasted oak.
The mouthfeel was at the tip and under the tongue. Definitely noticeable but fairly modest for so high-proof a spirit.
In the finish the toasted oak came forward, along with toasted marshmallows (I really liked that), and unusual hints of both floral and leather. It was a long finish, with the leather fading to a light spiciness before disappearing.
It’s important as you cruise through Whiskeydom that you don’t let a higher-proof whiskey intimidate you or your whiskey-curious friends. A good cask strength product will have more flavor than heat, so be brave! Barrell has been getting some very good press, winning a number of prestigious awards and has been scoring very high in the world of whiskey in general. It’s one I highly recommend. And share it with a friend.
Addendum by Randall Borkus
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.
Barrell Whiskey Batch 004 is officially priced at $65, but I have seen it retailing at around $50-60.