Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Barrell Craft Spirits
Distillery: Sourced (From an undisclosed distillery in Tennessee)
Released: March 2017
Age: 6 Years
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 25% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Deep Golden Honey
Barrell Bourbon is sourced bourbon released periodically in sequentially numbered batches. The company’s mantra is to seek out unique whiskeys and release them at barrel proof, striving to offer no two batches that are alike.
According to the company’s website, “Barrell Bourbon Batch 011 is the culmination of a 2 year long barrel sorting project focused on highlighting a particularly rare and bright flavor note found in only select barrels of bourbon.The base of this blend is 6-year-old barrels but it contains older barrels as well.” Barrell Bourbon Batch 011 took first place for best bourbon in the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Prominent scents of candy corn and buttered cornbread invite a deeper inhale. Breathing in more intensely, the proof is apparent, but hints of ripe bananas and citrus come with it. It’s quite manageable for the proof, enticing you to have a taste.
Describing it as an explosion of flavor almost doesn’t do it justice. Caramel sweetness is balanced against warming cinnamon spice. Rich cornbread, cotton candy, sweet corn, and seasoned oak layer in complexity and depth. There’s a ton of flavor here, and it’s diverse in its delivery. It’s as if you can taste something different every time. Batch 011 is creamy, mouth-coating, and perfectly proofed.
Crisp and clean, the cinnamon spice from the palate dissipates quickly leaving sweet notes of candy corn, a bit of seasoned oak, and echoes of the flavors from the palate. While not the neverending finish you might anticipate from such an explosion of flavor found in the palate, not to mention its high proof, the shorter than expected conclusion leaves you wanting to take another sip.
Each batch of Barrell Bourbon is unique by design. While Barrell Craft Spirits is in the process of getting their own distillation operation up and running, it will be years before they can introduce it into the mix. As a result, the bourbon that makes up each batch is sourced.
The company is forthright with much of the information on the spirits they source for each batch, which includes the state of distillation, age, and mashbill in most cases. Because of this, just visiting the company’s website will tell you that out of 13 batches of bourbon released to date (this includes the 007B and 008B batches), many share similarities. Comparing them with Batch 011, 10 out of 13 were also distilled in Tennessee, with 7 of those sharing the same mashbill. The ages of bourbons sourced from Tennessee range from 5 to 13 years old, with all but one under 10 years.
On the surface you might think the “every batch is unique concept” is just marketing. I’ve challenged the idea myself. But compared to the industry as a whole, it’s not uncommon to see many very different products stem from the same distillery and mashbill. The effects of barrel aging, barrel selection, and ultimately the final blend and bottling proof make one bourbon distinct from another. Just compare standard Maker’s Mark with Maker’s Cask Strength; these are two very different experiences separated by the addition of water alone.
My point is, while many of Barrell’s sourced bourbons share some underlying similarities, the final experience can vary drastically from one to the next. Batch 011 is a perfect example of this. The culmination of a 2 year long barrel sorting project focused on highlighting exceptional barrels, it’s apparent that Batch 011 shines. I’ve enjoyed every batch of Barrell Bourbon that I’ve tasted so far. Batch 011’s explosive and bright flavors make it a standout, not just among Barrell products, but among bourbons at large.
Barrell Bourbon is priced at a premium; $90 MSRP, though it can often be found for less. Given the fact that each batch is released in fairly limited numbers and at barrel proof, this makes up a bit for the relatively low age of some of the batches, this one included. That said, if the taste is right maybe we can let some of the technicals slide a bit. Barrell nails it with Batch 011, making it worth every penny. If you plan to buy act quickly though, as this bourbon took first place at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and is sure to be swept off the shelves more quickly than usual.
An explosion of flavors, the Barrell team showcases their ability to source and blend a fantastic bourbon with Batch 011.An explosion of flavors, the Barrell team showcases their ability to source and blend a fantastic bourbon with Batch 011.
I’ve reviewed a number of Barrell bourbons and enjoyed every one. In fact I chose batches 005 and 006 as some of my favorite whiskeys of 2015 and 2016, respectively. In my discussions with Joe Beatrice, the company’s founder, he and his team put a lot of care into selecting and blending the barrels for each batch. Barrell is a company to watch, as Beatrice along with master distiller Tripp Stimson are on fire, producing some of the best bourbons on the market today. If you enjoy barrel proof bourbon with a lot of flavor, be sure to pick up a bottle of Batch 011 before it’s too late.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.