By Richard Thomas
I knew Barrell Bourbon had a hardcore fan following, but even I was surprised by how enthusiastic they were in the wake of publishing last week’s “The Top Ten Single Barrel Bourbon.” Through social media, email and comments, I was asked several times why Barrell Bourbon wasn’t on the list? Swept away by enthusiasm, they seem to have forgotten that Barrell Bourbon’s single barrel releases are narrowly available private barrel bottlings. Their normal stuff may be uncut, but the very phrasing “batch” points to their not-single barrel status.
So, it goes without saying that new batches have some folks salivating in anticipation. Batch 012 is the latest, made in Tennessee (as is so often the case) from 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley, and aged for nine years in the Volunteer State too. The batch came out at a 108.5 proof cask strength. In summary, it’s a high-rye, presumably Dickel-made, middle-aged bourbon at a just above bottled-in-bond level of proof.
The high rye content shows a little in the looks of the whiskey, in that it has a pale amber coloring in the glass, and that despite the almost decade long maturation and well over 100 proof strength of the thing. Even 51% Kentucky style ryes tend to be lighter than bourbons, and this is a high rye bourbon, so there you are. The coating of the glass dropped thick legs, and plenty of them.
The scent was thick with caramel and crammed with vanilla beans. Underscoring all that oak-driven, sweet goodness were notes of brown sugar and cookie spices and a little bit of chopped up dried fruit. All in all, it reminded me a bit of what I would smell if I were making oatmeal raising cookies from scratch, albeit with dried cherries instead of raisins and if I wanted to go nuts and just eat the cookie dough by pouring a cup of hot caramel into the mix.
That cookie mix of heavy caramel and vanilla with some brown sugar and cookie spices continues into the flavor, but I found the spices adding hints of licorice towards the end for a nice little bit of complexity. Also making an appearance here was a hint of barrel char. At no time did I pick up even the slightest bit of heat from this bourbon, which is a good thing, because a well-aged bourbon at less than 55% ABV shouldn’t have any alcohol-burning heat to it. The finish was fairly long, and left a nice current of licorice and dry oak.
The official price for Batch 012 is $90, and you should pay right around that with most retailers while supplies last.