Reviewed as part of my participation on Distiller.com‘s Tasting Table. You can see my official tasting notes and rating plus enter your own using the website or Distiller app.
Barrell Bourbon has made a name for themselves as an ‘independent bottler,’ which is no small feat in this age of on-the-sly repacks and disguised sourced whiskeys. Barrell doesn’t reveal where they find their barrels (usually they’re under NDA) but so far reviews have been on the positive side of the line.
All prior releases have been batches made from barrels filled in the same distilling season. For the New Year 2017 batch, they’ve combined “5, 7, 8, 9 and 13-year old Straight Bourbon Whiskey barrels that were separately distilled in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana” and “aged in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.” That’s gotta be new.
The bourbon is presented at barrel strength of 117 proof.
Color: Rich amber with orange and red undertones.
Nose: Smoky and spicy and sweet. I was immediately reminded of a quality incense. A touch of earthy muskiness which is off-putting. At 117 proof, you can’t nose too deeply without getting some burn. After letting breathe for a minute, the bourbon opens to nuttiness and citrus zest with just a little butter.
Palate: Toasted oak and campfire smoke, raisins, vanilla, green apple, pear up front which transitions to all of the spices – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg – and red fruit including plum and black cherry. There’s so much going on here you could dissect it for a long time.
Finish: Warm which builds to hot with repeated sips. Finish is heavily oak but introduces a nice complex of chocolates. It is a little short.
Verdict: Solid, quality bourbon. $80 for a limited edition? Yeah, I’d say it worth that.
Just for giggles, here’s the official notes:
Crushed stone and broiled fruit give way to wet saddle leather and generous dollops of heavy sweet cream oozing over cast iron baked cornbread. The pleasant warmth of this bourbon is tempered by the opulent, mouth-filling extended finish. Fire and smoke swirl around your palate, leaving behind bursts of sea salt, walnut liqueur, and citrus oils on your tongue. This is a highly sophisticated liquid, perfect for celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
And the additional official notes, as written by Warren Bobrow, The Cocktail Whisperer:
Appearance: Luxuriant 18 karat gold flecked with cinnamon red at its heart with edges of yellower gold leaf shimmering with each gentle swirl of the glass.
Nose: Wet leather and Tahitian-vanilla bean challah French toast awash in hazelnut brown butter and dark maple syrup. Sweet plum and cherry notes give way to campfire and toasted buckwheat for a simultaneously familiar and exotic aroma.
Palate: Smoldering oak underlies the ever-present heat with each slurp accentuated by salted caramel and droplets of condensed milk.
Finish: Crackling hot late season corn pudding, covered in dollops of rapidly melting sweet butter jump at you. Each sip plunges down the throat, drenched in spicy citrus marmalade and toasted grains.
With a few drops of water
Notes of spicy ginger beer, sarsaparilla, and birch bark rush across the palate, making way for toasted brioche topped with smoked butter and raw honey. Filtered stream water carries the strong presence of this remarkable liquid, making it sing.