Classification: Blend of Straight Ryes
Company: Barrell Craft Spirits
Distillery: Sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Canada
Release Date: August 2023
Age: 5 Years, 6 Months
Per the back label, an undisclosed blend of 6 rye whiskeys:
-Indiana: 5, 6, & 10 years old
-Tennessee: 5 years old
-Kentucky: 6 years old
-Canada: 14 years old
Mashbill: 89% Rye, 7% Corn, 4% Malted Barley (Derived from the blend)
Color: Rose Gold
MSRP: $90 (2023)
Barrell Rye Batch 004 is the latest installment in Barrell Craft Spirits’ ongoing batched rye series, following the previous Batch 003 which was released in March 2020. According to the company’s press release, “Rye Batch 004 is a blend of straight rye whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Canada."
The youngest rye in the blend is 5 years, 6 months, as stated on the bottle’s official age statement on the front label. However, the company further details the ages of the component ryes on the back label and on their website and marketing materials, which includes whiskeys aged 6, 10, and 14 years.
The bottle in review is number 12,529.
The nose is fruit-forward with concentrated sweetness from dried apricot and a subtle note of raspberry up front. The aroma is further enriched by a delicate hint of anise which weaves its way in. Punchy rye spice makes itself present, and an underlying caramel undertone adds a layer of depth. The whiskey's evident proof lends a robustness to the aroma, which is more spicy than sweet.
The palate unfolds with a fruit-forward profile that is initially highlighted by notes of black raspberry and dark cherry. A wave of clove imparts depth, combining with a distinctive rye spice that asserts its presence with a well-defined intensity. The sweet caramel undertone introduced in the nose carries throughout the sip, offering a thread of continuity. The composition is rich yet straightforward, with each flavor element contributing to what is ultimately an elegant and very enjoyable overall experience.
The finish is characterized by the enduring presence of dark berries, complemented by caramel sweetness that gradually tapers off. A hint of tobacco leaf interplays with dark fruit and light oak, adding a layer of depth. Peppery rye spice crescendos then fades slowly, contributing to a long, satisfying, and spicy conclusion.
This is the fourth batch in Barrell Craft Spirits’ rye line. Batches have varied significantly, with the inclusion of component whiskeys from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Canada, and even Poland, depending on the batch. Batch 004 forgoes the Poland component that was used in Batches 002 and 003, but includes three Indiana ryes, one Kentucky rye, one Tennessee rye, and one Canadian rye. Ages range from 5 to 14 years old, with the oldest rye in the blend originating from Canada.
Despite the inclusion of a 14 year old component, the whiskey does not lean into oak, instead highlighting rye spice with a sweet undertone. Its 115.7 proof point delivers flavors with ample intensity and is never too hot though ample spice develops in the finish. Those familiar with Canadian and Indiana ryes will notice hints of each, but the whiskey comes together in such a way that no single flavor or vein of flavor takes over.
Surprisingly, Barrell Rye Batch 004 doesn’t break into new flavor territory despite being a complex blend. Instead, it’s a well balanced rye that maintains a rye focus with a sweet undertone throughout. Tasted next to a number of MGP ryes (various single barrels), Canadian ryes (from Alberta Distillers), and a few Kentucky ryes (Knob Creek and Rare Breed), however, proved what makes Barrell Rye Batch 004 stand out. Barrell Rye Batch 004 stood out in this mix for its balance, maintaining focus on the rye spice in its flavor profile, with a sweet caramel undertone. Where ryes are often unrefined in some areas, Barrell Rye Batch 004 addresses that with an elegant overall delivery.
There are far fewer ryes in the marketplace to choose from than bourbons. This makes for less price anchoring, but also more opportunity to set the bar. Kentucky majors like Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel ($60), Knob Creek Rye ($40), and Sazerac Rye ($30) set that bar fairly low, but then you have those such as Square 6 High-Rye Rye ($90), Michter’s US*1 Barrel Proof Rye ($100), and Chicken Cock Island Rooster Rum Barrel Rye ($200), that push the bar in the upward direction.
Barrell Rye Batch 004 maintains the standard pricing that previous batches and corresponding Bourbon batches maintain, which is to be expected. Barrell Rye Batch 004 excels at being highly drinkable, well-composed, and elegant, which is what should be expected at a $90 price point. Its refinement defines it, and it asks a premium price in return. Stellum Rye ($55) offers more bang for the buck, but Barrell Rye Batch 004 will be a one and done batch, helping justify the cost for the more detail-oriented whiskey drinker and bringing with it more intrinsic value.
Barrell Rye Batch 004 blends together six ryes from four different regions to create an elegant, highly drinkable result.
Admittedly, Barrell Rye Batch 004 didn’t make a strong first impression, but it grew on me quite a bit. I had initially expected a unique flavor profile given the complexity of the blend, and instead was met with a rye that focuses on something else entirely. The more I tasted it, the more it solidified its focus on elegance and a refined drinking experience. It highlights rye spice, but carries a sweet undertone throughout, making it a “bourbon drinker’s rye” to some extent. It doesn’t bring strong age or oak flavor notes into the mix and instead centers on rye spice without overdoing it. Barrell Craft Spirits’ blending capability is again put into focus with this batch, which doubles down on pure drinkability above all else.