Classification: Whiskey Finished in Rum, Port & Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Barrels
Company: Barrell Craft Spirits
Distillery: Sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, and Canada
Release Date: August 2022
Age: NAS (Contains whiskey aged up to 20 years per company’s press release)
Color: Light Rose Gold
Price: $250 (2022)
Barrell Craft Sprits (BCS) Gray Label Dovetail is a premium version of the company’s standard product, Barrell Dovetail. Introduced in August, 2022, the Gray Label variation follows the same structure Barrell Craft Spirits has established with other products including BCS Gray Label Bourbon, BCS Gray Label Whiskey, and BCS Gray Label Seagrass.
According to the company’s press release, “In 2018, Barrell Craft Spirits, launched Barrell Dovetail…Recently, the independent blender of unique aged, cask-strength sourced whiskey and rum, became intrigued with applying the concept of "Dovetail" to some of its older stocks. The result is BCS Gray Label Dovetail, a limited edition expression which boasts the same award-winning blend of Whiskey finished in rum, port and Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Barrels and uses the same finishing and blending method. The difference however, as with all of the company’s Gray Label offerings, is that BCS used older and more rare barrels, aged up to 20 years, to create this blend.”
Sweet scents abound, with grape, dried apricot, and strawberry jam. Maple sugar candy and a hint of molasses add depth, rounding out the fruit-like aromas, albeit maintaining the same sweet vein. A base of heat is present, though it’s manageable considering the proof exceeds 130. It’s a whiskey that’s not shy in inviting you to take a sip, putting forth a pleasing array of scents with ample intensity.
The scents hinted on the nose develop into flavors immediately, connecting the aroma with the taste. Spice quickly takes over, while further introducing complements of custard and white grape jelly. The spice is most reminiscent of allspice, contrasting the complementary sweet flavors. Dry leather and seasoned oak come into play as well, offering a layer of depth and making for a complex and well-integrated palate. It errs heavily towards the sweeter side, offering satisfaction for anyone seeking a punchy, sweet whiskey at a robust proof point.
The spice and sweet notes from the palate stick in the finish, which brings additional flavors into the fold. Aged oak along with an underlying astringency come forward, most likely arising from the older whiskey(s) in the blend. A subtle almost Dr. Pepper-like flavor note develops, which isn’t a common flavor in whiskey but it works here. Long lasting, the finish maintains the level of intensity established by the nose and palate, and provides a suitable and enjoyable capstone to the sip.
When Barrell Craft Spirits introduced the standard version of Dovetail in late 2018, it arguably didn’t get the attention it deserved. The last quarter of each year typically brings with it a massive swell of new bourbon and American whiskey releases, limited edition frenzy, and of course it’s buying season because of the holidays so whiskey and spirits related companies pour a lot of resources into getting your attention during this time. Dovetail doesn’t have the “Bourbon” name attached to it either, a powerful word when it comes to getting attention in the American whiskey space. It’s also an unusual blend, bringing together different whiskeys finished in both rum and wine barrels. I really enjoy the standard version and it’s become my favorite Barrell Craft Spirits product. Notably, when I share it with others it’s often the first time they’ve had it, versus most having had some experience with either Barrell Bourbon or Seagrass as a reference point.
The standard version of Dovetail is such a great product to start, that providing a step up from it in some way is a challenge. As with other Gray Label releases, Barrell Craft Spirits moved in a similar direction to establish its premium position: refinement. BCS Gray Label Dovetail maintains the same finishes as the standard version, but adds higher aged whiskey and whiskey distilled in Canada. By comparison, BCS Gray Label is sweeter and more balanced, offering a more even experience than the standard version, even at its higher proof point. On the other hand, the standard version offers some rich flavor notes that seem to be attributed to the rum finish - rich molasses and dark fruit specifically - that are not as prominent in Gray Label. Notably, the standard Dovetail is a batch release offered at barrel proof, so the flavor profile can vary a bit from batch to batch.
Zooming out a bit, Gray Label Dovetail is a unique product. Bringing together whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee, and Canada along with the range of finishes that aren’t often mixed is something to take note of. Moreover, achieving a cohesive end result is something not everyone could pull off, but it falls well within Barrell Craft Spirits’ purview. To that end, it’s a uniquely designed product with a unique and well crafted flavor profile.
The biggest downside to Barrell’s Gray Label line is its price point. I understand and appreciate their positioning - frankly the market is asking for it - but at the same time it’s a big ticket that brings with it sticker shock. At about three times the cost of the standard version, it’s a steep mountain to climb, especially considering the standard product is so good to begin with. With that being said, Gray Label Dovetail has elements necessary to back up its premium price point. It differentiates itself in the market as a whole and differentiates itself from the standard version offering greater refinement. High proof is generally a plus, and Gray Label Dovetail wears its proof well. But while it contains whiskeys aged up to 20 years, it doesn’t have an age statement which can help justify such a high price point. This is most likely due to its merging of various finished whiskeys where age statements can get tricky. Also the fact that the product leans more heavily on the marriage of whiskeys and finishes than a higher age statement, unlike its 15 year age stated BCS Gray Label Bourbon counterpart. It’s a really well done whiskey, but at $250 is reserved for those with those looking to splurge.
Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Dovetail marries three different whiskeys and three different finishes - rum, port, and Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Barrels - to create a whiskey that’s more refined than its standard counterpart.
Blending different whiskeys to create a cohesive end result can be a difficult task, especially when trying to do it with different whiskeys and finishes. Barrell Craft Spirits pulls the flavors together quite well with Gray Label Dovetail, erring heavily on the sweeter side and producing a unique whiskey. As with all of the BCS Gray Label releases, it carries a high asking price, but so far the line has proven to be a sure bet when it comes to quality whiskey. In today’s market, that is not always the case, so credit has to be given to Barrell for creating such consistent quality across their brand, even as they go up market. With that being said, the standard Dovetail is just as good, albeit offering a different flavor profile that isn’t quite as refined but a bit more rum heavy, at about one third the price. For those who have gone deep on Barrell products and have the cash to spend, BCS Gray Label Dovetail is a must-buy. But for those who have yet to fully explore Barrell’s standard products, your dollars will be better spent digging deeper into their range of products which are premium, high quality whiskeys to begin with.