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Barrell Craft Spirits Has 2 Surprise Releases Up Their Sleeve for 2023

Barrell Craft Spirits Has 2 Surprise Releases Up Their Sleeve for 2023

Barrell has always surprised its fans with a new, named release each year. 2018 was Dovetail, 2019 was Vatted Malt, 2020 was Seagrass, 2021 was Armida and 2022 was Vantage. Now it looks like they’re getting ready to roll out with Barrell Bourbon Amburana Cask Finish.

Amburana Cask finishes are all the rage today. Ever since Starlight Distillery rolled out with their inaugural Cigar Batch Bourbon and Rye single barrels in 2019, the fervor has only increased. I wrote an article about what Amburana is and how it’s being used and you can read it here.

My opinions of Amburana finishes have shifted recently from “oh wow, this is different!” to “ugh, another gingerbread whiskey again?” This shift in opinion appears to be gaining traction among other enthusiasts I talk to. They are realizing that Amburana is so impactful with its strength that it’s covering up the character of the bourbon or rye whiskey underneath. Some solutions that other producers are using include shorter finishing times or even re-using the barrels 2 or 3 times to reduce their influence.

Barrell’s Twist to Amburana Cask Finishes

Barrell looks like they’re aware of just how much Amburana can cover up the base whiskey, so they’re going to take a slightly different approach to using it. The rear label seems to indicate that the blend (which uses no Dickel btw) was finished in Amburana Casks and then had additional non-finished barrels of bourbon added in to fine-tune the taste.

This is an important step to note because I firmly believe that whenever whiskey touches an Amburana cask, there’s no turning back from it drowning in gingerbread notes. I hope this technique dilutes the finish enough that it lets its influence become more of a secondary note rather than the star of the show.

As a final note, an Amburana Cask finish makes Barrell Bourbon the leader in finishing cask variety among all whiskey producers. They have used every single cask known to man to finish their whiskey and rye whiskey in – with the exception of one.

What’s the one cask we haven’t seen them finish a whiskey in yet? Honey. Will that be the 2024 release? Only Joe Beatrice knows the answer to that question. We’ll see next year!

Barrell Rye Whiskey Batch 004 is an unexpected surprise

Barrell killed off their Whiskey Batches in 2017 following the release of Batch 005. They also appeared to kill off the Rye Batches in 2019 with the release of (my personal favorite) Batch 003. For years, I’ve asked every Barrell Rep I’ve come across if there will ever be a Batch 004. I have always been told “no.”

I believed it too, especially when Barrell announced their Private Release Rye Whiskey line early in 2023. I figured all rye whiskey barrels at their warehouse would go towards that program. Looks like I was wrong!

Looking at the rear label, we’re able to witness a new “First” for Barrell: A breakdown of the Blend Components and the “Derived Mash Bill.” What’s a derived mash bill? Apparently, it’s the average of all mash bill ingredients used for the blend.

I’ve always been skeptical of these numbers because I don’t know if the averages are derived by actual volume percentages or just an average of all mash bills used (which would be the incorrect, but more simplified, way of describing the mash bill). For those of you on a mobile device who can’t zoom in on the picture, I’ll list what they are:

Blend Components

Indiana Rye: 5, 6 & 10 Years Old

Tennessee Rye: 5 Years Old

Kentucky Rye: 6 Years Old

Canadian Rye: 14 Years Old

Derived Mash Bill

Rye: 89%

Corn: 7%

Malted Barley: 4%

I attempted to do the math a couple different ways to see if I could guess the distillery that each component came from. Here’s my best two guesses.

First Guess for Barrell Rye Whiskey Batch 004 Mash Bill Components

Indiana Rye: Most likely MGP’s 95/5 rye recipe

Tennessee Rye: Dickel has confirmed their rye recipe is also a 95/5 made in-house

Kentucky Rye: I haven’t been able to track down the source of Barrell’s Kentucky Rye source. But I have a theory that depends on me being right about the Canadian Rye Whiskey source (see the next section). What if Barrell has sourced the same barrels as Coalition did from Kentucky Artisan Distillery which were 100% rye grain? Alternatively, Barrell may have sourced one of 2 rye whiskies from New Riff. Their 95/5 (but the 5% is malted rye, so it’s technically a 100% rye) or their 100% malted rye that we know already hit the 6 year old mark 2 years ago.

Canadian Rye: In the past, I’ve theorized that the Canadian Rye that Barrell sources was from Valleyfield which uses a 53% rye, 39% Corn and 8% Malted Barley mash bill. Let’s stick with that.

The averages would end up being something like this:

Close enough, right?

Second Guess for Barrell Rye Whiskey Batch 004 Mash Bill Components

Indiana Rye: MGP’s 95/5 rye recipe with one of the versions being the 51/45/4 “High Corn” Rye Recipe used by Smoke Wagon and Old Hamer

Tennessee Rye: Dickel has confirmed their rye recipe is also a 95/5 made in-house

Kentucky Rye: There are 3 distilleries that use the 95/5 recipe (ironically, all 3 had Larry Ebersold’s Consulting Firm teach them how to make it). Bardstown Bourbon Company, Rabbit Hole and Green River Distilling. I’m going to guess that BBC was the source if that’s the case.

Canadian Rye: People that think that Barrell sources rye whiskey from Alberta are incorrect. Alberta is too expensive for Barrell. But there are plenty of other Canadian distilleries that use a 100% rye mash bill.

The averages would end up being something like this:

But I guess this way gets us closer

To give you a quick insight into how I got here, I’ll say that we know for sure that there is a 100% mash bill hiding among the recipes. We could also deduce that with so much 95/5 being used and a total malted barley percent of 4, that there needs to be a rye whiskey that doesn’t use malted barley.

That would bring down the total average of malted barley below 5%. I could be wrong about all of this, but I’m not familiar with any Kentucky rye whiskies currently being made that use between 1% and 5% malted barley in their mash bill.

Say I’m all wrong about this, that’s okay too. I have historically thought that Barrell has done great things with odd rye whiskey blends. I think this will be one that knocks it out of the park and should be tried by everyone who enjoys rye whiskey.

I thought that Barrell Rye Batch 003 blended in so many components, it was like drinking a rye whiskey that had every trait you’d ever want. This one is shaping up to be the same way. My only question is how soon can I get my hands on one?

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