Review: Stellum Bourbon
Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
Company: Stellum Spirits
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky)
Release Date: Ongoing (First released in March 2021)
Price: $55 (2021)
Stellum Spirits was launched in March 2021. According to the company press release, it is “a new national brand created to celebrate the modern-day whiskey drinker.” Stellum is produced by Barrell Craft Spirits, which is known for Barrell Bourbon and many other whiskey and spirits products. The inaugural flagship offerings include Stellum Bourbon (blended), Stellum Rye (blended), Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon, and Stellum Single Barrel Rye, all offered at cask strength.
Unlike the Barrell Bourbon line, Stellum blends will not be a batched product where every batch is unique. Instead, it will be always available and consistent. According to an interview we conducted with company founder Joe Beatrice, “Stellum uses a “daisy chain” blending technique where a large portion is blended and then the rest is topped off with the same recipe and adjusted only with other cask strength barrels for taste and proof for consistency. This is a technique developed as a hybrid of our technique for constructing Barrell Batches and the reverse-solera we use for the Barrell Infinite Barrel Project.”
According to Beatrice, “The Stellum name is derivative of the Latin word stella for star. Stellium also has an astrological meaning of a group of planets concentrated in a house. Stellum is not a heavily branded release, but we do want to always touch on modernity and our reverence for balancing intuition and scientific method.”
Traditional scents of vanilla and caramel find harmony with delicate seasoned oak. Aromas of baking spice and anise mingle in, providing additional depth. For the proof, the scents are lighter than expected in their delivery, but the overall aroma is balanced and inviting.
A mix of cinnamon and baking spices lands on the tongue, complemented by savory clove. Like the aromas, traditional vanilla and caramel come forth, highlighting the bourbon’s sweet attributes. Seasoned oak rounds things out. Despite the proof, it’s quite easy to roll around in your mouth, allowing you to savor the delicious sip.
Rye spice rushes forth, followed by brown sugar and caramel sweetness. Dry tobacco combines with the sweeter notes to create a nice contrast. Like the rest of the sip, the finish is straightforward and the flavors work in harmony with one another. It’s a classic sweet-spicy mix that’s quite long and very enjoyable.
From the creators of Barrell Bourbon, Stellum shares similar roots combining bourbons from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee into the blend. Unlike Barrell Bourbon batches however, Stellum does not have the quintessential underlying Tennessee flavor profile many would describe as a somewhat consistent underpinning found in many Barrell Bourbon batches. Instead, Stellum veers much more traditional, finding a near-perfect balance of sweet-spice with just the right amount of oak influence so it’s not overly oaky. At about 115 proof, it’s full-flavored and surprisingly drinkable.
While Stellum’s lack of a bombastic flavor profile doesn’t earn it any points for uniqueness, its incredible balance does. Moreover, the “daisy chain” blending technique developed to create Stellum is quite unique. Combining bourbons from multiple distilleries spanning multiple states to such harmonious results is rather remarkable, and the fact that the goal is to maintain a consistent product, is even moreso. In some regards, developing a new blend for each Barrell Bourbon batch seems easier, as maintaining ongoing consistency and proof with an ever-changing supply chain presents challenges for Stellum going forward.
Coming in at $55, Stellum Bourbon is quite a bit less than a bottle of Barrell Bourbon. However, it still finds itself among stiff barrel proof (or near barrel proof) competition, including Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, Stagg Jr., and Knob Creek Single Barrel, to name a few from the Kentucky majors. Each offers a different experience, and frankly, I enjoy every bourbon on this list. In fact, I consider all of them a strong value and generally recommend to anyone seeking out a high proof pour. Stellum falls right in the mix, and casts a wide net with respect to consumers considering its proof and overall drinkability. At $55, Stellum is an easy buy recommendation, offering an approachable flavor profile at an approachable price.
Balanced, nuanced, and full-flavored yet easy to sip, Stellum Bourbon from the creators of Barrell Bourbon hits all the right marks.
Being very familiar with the Barrell Bourbon line before tasting Stellum Bourbon, I worried they may share too many similarities and come off as a “lesser” version of the Barrell line considering its lower price point. Instead, Stellum finds totally new ground. Forgoing the layered nuances and more notable Tennessee influence often found in Barrell Bourbon batches, Stellum Bourbon completely stands on its own. And while other barrel proof products (in addition to Barrell Bourbon) can revel in batch variation, and oftentimes attention-grabbing flavor profiles, Stellum bucks that trend. It maintains a full flavor, but doesn’t highlight anything in particular, instead offering a straightforward flavor profile with a high degree of drinkability.
Considering the company’s goal of reaching the “modern-day whiskey drinker,” which I also interpret as appealing to a wider and maybe different (or additional) audience than Barrell Bourbon, Stellum hits the mark. Consistency as opposed to unique batches is a quality that should serve to reach a wider range of consumers. However, in most cases where a brand creates a product intended o reach more consumers, I typically like it less (sometimes a lot less), but still recognize its merit and who it is designed for. In Stellum’s case, this new product does not sacrifice its appeal to bourbon enthusiasts in order to reach new consumers. It maintains a proofpoint and flavor profile that can still be appreciated, simultaneously succeeding in offering more widespread appeal.