Small Batch: Generally widely available
Single: Generally widely available
Small Batch: $40
Small Batch: NAS (Rumored over 7 years old)
Single: NAS (Rumored 7-12 years old)
Small Batch: 100, bottled in bond
Single: 100, bottled in bond
Nose: Oddly I notice a copper-like smell with both which is rounded out with the traditional vanilla, caramel, and charred wood. The single barrel has a fuller scent with a little less alcohol pulling through than the small batch. Otherwise they’re very similar.
Palate: Butterscotch, licorice and burnt plums mixed with some citrusy notes and prunes for both. Like the nose the taste is very similar with the single barrel exhibiting slightly richer and more balanced flavors. The citrusy notes are more prominent with the single barrel as well.
Finish: The single barrel has a deeper and more welcoming burn, lasting slightly longer than the small batch. Considering they’re the same proof it’s surprising that there’s even a difference, however as slight as it may be, it is noticeable when sipped side-by-side.
Value: The single barrel is a full 50% markup from the small batch, and enters into pricing territory with limited releases such as the annually released Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Old Forester Birthday Bourbons. Not only that, I can typically pick up a Four Roses Single Barrel at 100 proof for about $35-$40.
Despite the price difference, the single barrel still edges out the small batch in quality across the board. The question is, is it worth the extra $20? I’ll get to that, but before I do let’s think about the pricing structure here. These bourbons are generally available all year. There are limited choices in the $40 - $60 range on any given day, and these are both quality bourbons. This is just a theory, but I think Trace has priced these a little high on purpose to keep up with demand - they want these to be on the shelves any given day of the year. They've maximized the pricing and set a benchmark for where everyday premium bourbon pricing may eventually be. If I’m going to the liquor store in June, for example, what higher quality offerings will I see on the shelf? Few, if any, has been my experience, but these two are usually there and I’ve been a buyer on multiple occasions. So to answer my own question, the small batch is priced about right at $40, while the single barrel kind of depends. If it’s fall and I can buy a Stagg, WLW, or Pappy, I certainly won’t be shelling out another $60 for a Taylor Single Barrel. It’s only during the dry times of the year when options are limited that the single barrel gains a more appealing presence, albeit still remaining slightly overpriced in my opinion.
Although it’s technically a slightly better bourbon, the single barrel’s slight improvement in quality does not generally warrant the increase in price. The small batch is a quality bourbon offered at a reasonable price trailing ever so slightly behind the single barrel in quality. It takes a direct comparison to distinguish the differences between the two, giving the small batch the edge considering the price. Hell, I can buy three small batch bottles for the same price as two single barrel bottles, which really puts the price into perspective.