By Richard Thomas
In terms of its peculiarity, I don’t think there is any bourbon on the market right now that outdoes Barrell Bourbon’s New Year 2018 release. The sourcing for this blend speaks for itself: seven distilleries from five states. A decade ago, you would have been hard pressed to scrape up stock bourbon from more than just three states: Kentucky; Tennessee and Indiana. Now the folks at Craft Barrell Spirits have found worthwhile stock from Texas and New York to add to that. That stock ranged from 2 1/2 to 14 years old, and the blend came out at 111.2 proof.
In my mind, a creation such as this is a first major step in the right direction for American Whiskey, towards where it might have gone had it not been for Prohibition. Had it not been for America’s greatest failed social experiment, more of the small and mid-sized distillers might have survived into the modern era, thus giving American Whiskey the same diversity of distilleries, each with its own identity, as enjoyed by Scotland. Such a broad, deep palette of whisky stock allows Britain’s independent bottlers and blenders to thrive.
Imagine if operators like Craft Barrell Spirits, High West and Smooth Ambler had been able to draw on well-established stocks of whiskey from several states, each with its own particular profile, from the very beginning. Now we have this five-state, seven-distillery bourbon blend, and it’s a mighty good start.
New Year 2018 Bourbon has a full copper appearance in the glass. The swish and coat steamed tears. The nose is rich and syrupy, like a freshly opened can of cherry pie filling. This is enhanced with a dollop of vanilla, mildly accented by spiced notes of mint, licorice and dill, and tinged with cedar.
As a sipping whiskey, it’s just fine as is and doesn’t actually need water, although you may prefer water or ice anyway. Either way, I didn’t think it was unduly hot as is. The texture of the liquid is a light one, with a flavor that balances oak against creme de menthe, with a fruity sweet note hovering in the background. The finish runs into peppermint, making its presence known and then fading away in due course.
Barrell Bourbon New Year 2018 should cost you $85.