SBC "Breaking the Seel"

Breaking Bourbon Award Winning Single Barrel Club picks are selected by Breaking Bourbon, and whenever possible with the help of Patreon supporters. The bottles are made available to Patreon supporters first by pledge tier. If any bottles remain after all supporters have had an opportunity to purchase, they are made available to the public on a first come, first served basis. Each barrel is sponsored by a retailer partner, who sells the bottles directly to end purchasers.

Collaboration Partner (Retailer, barrel, and custom blend selection): Seelbach’s

Name: Penelope Private Select Bourbon “Breaking the Seel”

Company: Penelope Bourbon

Distillery: MGP

Age: 3 Years (Custom blend created from three different barrels - 4 years, 6 months, 17 days [90%] + 4 years, 2 months, 1 day [5%] + 3 years, 7 months, 26 days [5%])

Proof: 118.2

Mashbill: 75% Corn, 19% Rye, 2% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley (Custom blend created from three bourbons with different mashbills, see details below)

Yield: 210 Bottles

Release Date: September 2020

For this release, we partnered with Blake Riber, founder of Bourbonr and Seelbach’s. This was also a collaboration with Penelope Bourbon co-founders Michael Paladini and Daniel Polise, serving as a pilot for what could become a unique private selection process.

What’s unique about this particular release, is it incorporated both barrel selection and custom blending elements. Moreover, the barrels were composed of three different mashbills covering four different grains.

Let’s take it from the top.

A typical barrel selection process often consists of selecting your favorite among 3 different single barrels. That’s where we started, times 3. We started with a total of 6 barrels that we had to get down to 3. All barrel proof, 2 barrels had a 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill, 2 had a 51% corn, 45% wheat, 4% malted barley mashbill, and 2 had a 99% corn, 1% malted barley mashbill. The task at hand was choosing our favorite from each. But it wasn’t just about selecting our favorite 3….we had something else lingering in our minds.

We would have to blend the three together to create our own custom blend.

Now if anyone has blended at home, you understand the difficulty of this task. Trying to make the whole better than the sum of its parts might seem easy on the surface, but it’s surprisingly hard to do. Moreover, working with smaller volumes to test that need to be scaled up for production makes for an even more daunting task, one that according to Mike and Daniel has a notable variance. Thankfully unlike larger scale batch blending, the final blend would only consist of portions of the 3 barrels selected. Phew, one less variable to work with.

This is probably a point at which it’s worth mentioning real world limitations. The barrels were all coming from MGP, so Penelope had to have someone at MGP locate the 6 barrels, pull samples, and ship them. From there, Daniel had to divide out the samples 4 ways (Blake plus the 3 of us Breaking Bourbon guys), plus retain a portion for Mike and himself. Realistically, you cannot pull gallons off each barrel, so while we had plenty to work with we had to be deliberate. We’d be narrowing down from 6 to 3 barrels, then creating a variety of blends to figure out our favorite. Out of the 3 we would select, we would use only 1 of the 3 barrels entirely, plus portions of the other 2 (unless by some stroke of magic the percentages and barrels yields lined up perfectly). Let’s also keep in mind we didn’t know barrel yields yet, so a short barrel in the mix could really change the final yield numbers.

OK, back to choosing the 3 barrels to use for the blend. Check out the video recording below of the selection process:

With our 3 barrels chosen, we shifted gears to blending. We used a bit too much of the samples we had to select the barrels, so the Penelope guys had to ship us some more samples for blending. Because we’re all in different places, we decided to do blending individually first, each come up with a favorite, then compare each of the 4 favorite blends side-by-side, together, and make a selection; similar to choosing a single barrel.

To our surprise, not only did we each submit a very different blend, but we each approached the blending process quite differently. There was also a particular barrel in the group that was incredibly unique and full-flavored, making for an interesting starting point. Since this was the pilot for the concept, we also had no limits - we could choose any percentages we want - no minimum/maximum on anything.

Check out the video recording below of the blend selection process:

In the end we were all really impressed with this process. We’ve all selected a lot of barrels in the past, but aside from some experimentation or blending within fairly strict limits this was the first blending project we worked on from start to finish. We also spent a lot of time talking with Mike and Daniel, and came away with a good sense of how in touch they are to their brand, and more importantly the bourbon community. The tenets of many of our discussions incorporated the question of how to deliver an experience bourbon enthusiasts really want - much of which encapsulates the driving force behind the blending program. We should also mention that due to COVID-19, everything had to be done remotely. In an ideal world, we would have travelled to MGP to make the selections and choose a blend.

While we typically create our own custom sticker, this project was a little different. An official label was planned from the get-go, and Penelope took the label through the entire TTB approval process. Codenamed “Breaking the Seel” to incorporate both the Breaking Bourbon and Seelbach’s names, this phrase stuck with us throughout the process and eventually became part of the official label!  


The final barrel selections we chose to be used for the blend:

Barrel 1 “1B”

Mashbill: 51% Corn, 45% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley

Age: 3 Years

Proof: 117

Barrel 2 “2B”

Mashbill: 99% Corn, 1% Malted Barley

Age: 4 Years

Proof: 113.8

Barrel 3 “3A”

Mashbill: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley

Age: 4 Years

Proof: 116.6

The blend options we each came up with individually that were sampled against each other:

Blake’s Blend

Blend Percentages: 1B - 33.3%, 2B - 16.7%, 3A - 50%

Final Mashbill: 71% Corn, 11% Rye, 15% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley

Eric’s Blend

Blend Percentages: 1B - 33.3%, 2B - 33.3%, 3A - 33.3%

Final Mashbill: 75% Corn, 7% Rye, 15% Wheat, 3% Malted Barley

Jordan’s Blend

Blend Percentages: 1B - 5%, 2B - 5%, 3A - 90%

Final Mashbill: 75% Corn, 19% Rye, 2% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley

Nick’s Blend

Blend Percentages: 1B - 67%, 2B - 25%, 3A - 8%

Final Mashbill: 65% Corn, 2% Rye, 30% Wheat, 3% Malted Barley

The winning blend:

Jordan’s Blend

Blend Percentages: 1B - 5%, 2B - 5%, 3A - 90%

Final Mashbill: 75% Corn, 19% Rye, 2% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley

**We’re planning to have a livestream tasting (everyone with bottles in hand) on or around 9/24/2020. If you purchase watch for further details!

Distillers, Producers, and Retailers: If you would like to be a part of this program and get your name in front of millions of bourbon enthusiasts, contact us.

Please note these bottles will not be sold by Breaking Bourbon, but will be sold by retailers we partner with in order to fulfill the orders and ship the bottles directly to Patreon supporters. Breaking Bourbon will receive no compensation from our partner retailers under these agreements (with the exception of a bottle from each barrel for editorial purposes). If you represent a retailer and ship to consumers and you’re interested in partnering just let us know!

Written By: BB Team

September 10, 2020
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