Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
Company: Barrell Craft Spirits
Distillery: Sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee
Release Date: October 2023 (Ongoing)
Age: 5 Years
Per the company’s website, an undisclosed blend of 7 bourbons:
-Indiana: 5, 6 & 9 years old
-Maryland: 5 & 6 years old
-Tennessee: 8 years old
-Kentucky: 8 years old
Mashbill: 73% Corn, 23% Rye, and 4% Malted Barley (Derived from the blend)
Color: Dark Gold
MSRP: $60 / 750mL (2023)
Barrell Craft Spirits is known for their cask strength batched bourbon products, along with their range of finished bourbons, whiskeys, and rums. Barrell Foundation Bourbon represents a turning point for the brand because it is their first non-cask strength release. According to Joe Beatrice, Barrell Craft Spirits’ founder, “We believe that a true art form in bourbon-making is the ability to produce bourbon whiskey that can be enjoyed by everyone, and we welcomed the challenge to show that we can produce great bourbon whiskey at a more approachable strength and price for all occasions. For 10 years we’ve led the blending movement in the U.S. and now welcome this exciting opportunity to be a trailblazer of an entirely different style of bourbon whiskey."
Initially launched in 12 states and Washington DC, the brand states that this will turn into a nationwide rollout in 2024.
The nose opens on gentle classic scents of vanilla, oak, and light rye spice. Inhaling deeper brings about more intricate notes of creamy nougat, dark berries, honey, faint flower notes, and ripe melon. The longer you sit with this bourbon, the more and more ever-so-slight nuanced scents appear. Soft and gentle overall, the aroma delivers a really satisfying opening to the sip.
The palate can best be summed up in a single word: balanced. It’s a gentle tension between grounded and sweet flavors that never veers too far one way or the other. Rye spice is present but never dominates and joins with dry oak and a white peppercorn note. Contrasting that are hints of yellow cake, dried melon rind, vanilla cream, and light whipped cream. Delivering a creamy, satisfying mouthfeel, the palate perfectly exemplifies the blending ability that Barrell Craft Spirits has become known for over the years.
The bourbon ends on a drier and spicier note compared to the rest of the sip. A constant pulsating rye spice is found throughout, along with a distinct white prickly peppercorn bite. Weaving in and out are notes of dry vanilla powder, oak, light leather, and fennel. A gentle heat and peppercorn bite linger for a while, reminding you of the rye in the bourbon’s mashbill. Overall it doesn’t come across as deep as the nose and palate, however, it still provides for a nice ending.
When it comes to blending bourbon, few can argue that Barrell Craft Spirits isn’t the nation’s leading whiskey company when it comes to it. Right from their inception, the brand has offered one core product, bourbon derived from intricate and purposeful blends. While they’ve since expanded into finished bourbons and other whiskey types, at their core, they’re known for their batched bourbon blends. I’ve often found myself waiting for the day that one of their batches falls short just to remind myself that they are, in fact, human. But batch after batch, the brand continues to defy the odds by releasing noteworthy products. But note, every product bottled under Barrell Craft Spirits’ labels to date has been released at barrel proof.
Barrell Foundation is a large shift for the company. Less fundamental and more focused, it’s a way for the company to prove that they’re capable of releasing a great whiskey at a lower proof point. Still present are all of the interesting attributes that make Barrell products stand out, including the fact that there are seven different bourbons from four different states spanning a range of 4 years from the blend’s youngest to oldest whiskeys. When you realize the various mashbill components along with the different grain sources, oak used, aging conditions of the barrels, and the state of distillation, it’s truly surprising that the end result is as cohesive as it is.
Fans of Barrell Bourbon batches may approach Barrell Foundation Bourbon with a hint of hesitation since they’ve been trained on what to expect from the company over the years. Mainly a well-blended product that delivers a cask strength pour. However, the company has proven with this release that they can deliver no matter the proof. In its final form, this bourbon is incredibly well-integrated, nuanced, and more importantly, approachable. Consumers who tend to shy away from cask strength products will be pleased to know that the end result at 100 proof is just as well received as a barrel proof product that boasts a 120 proof point or higher.
Barrell Craft Spirits has traditionally offered a great product, but it comes at a price. Their least expensive batched products start at $90 and their Gray and Gold label bourbons are priced at multiples of that. While the company started their Stellum line of whiskeys, which is a standalone brand highlighting their blending capabilities at a lower cost, hasn’t seemed to command the same fanfare as compared to bourbons bottled under the Barrell brand name. This is where Barrell Foundation Bourbon comes into play.
Priced at a reasonable $60, Barrell Foundation Bourbon finally gives whiskey drinkers a chance to experience a Barrell Craft Spirits product at a wallet-friendly price. While the product may not be barrel proof compared to the company’s standard batches, it delivers just as fulfilling of a sip and highlights Barrell Craft Sprits’ prowess when it comes to blending whiskey. While the 5 year age statement may throw people off considering its price, it’s far less any one individual component, and more so, the collectiveness of all of the components blended together that make this whiskey work. Considering the quality of the blend in the bottle and the approachability of this bourbon, this is an easy buy at its current price point. This holds especially true for those who love Barrell products but tire of the high price tag.
Nuanced yet approachable, Barrell Foundation Bourbon proves that Barrell Craft Spirits can play down in proof as much as they’ve proven they can play up in proof.
Barrell Foundation Bourbon is one of those bourbons that is subtle in its delivery yet firm in its end result. This is a bourbon that not only showcases the power of a well blended bourbon but does so at a proof point that will be much more approachable to the majority of consumers. While cask strength and barrel proof bourbon have become in vogue over the years, the reality is, most people don’t want to drink a super high proof bourbon all the time. Barrell Foundation plugs the hole that was missing in the company’s portfolio.
Barrell Foundation Bourbon is incredibly approachable. The sip is nuanced and full of flavor and thanks to its lower proof, allows bourbon drinkers to sit with it for a while without fear of burning out their taste buds as they dissect the various parts. I have to hand it to Barrell Craft Spirits on this one, as they’ve proven themselves once again to be at the top of their game when it comes to blending various bourbons together. While it may not be as memorable as some of the most noticeable Barrell Bourbon batches, thanks to its lower proof and easy sipability, it may just be my favorite Barrell Bourbon yet.