When Barrell Bourbon was still in their infancy in 2014, their bourbon releases were relatively young in age (5 years old). But Barrell gambled that because they were releasing their batches at barrel strength, that it would make up for lack of time in a barrel. With Batch 003, which was sourced from an unnamed distillery in Kentucky, Barrell also showed that not every batch would be from Tennessee.
Barrell Batch 003
Barrell Batch 003 and to an extent, Batch 004 left many doors open as to the mystery that surrounds which distillery they source from. And the crazy thing is, nobody seems to analyze this. I’ve searched the internet high and low to find answers to these questions:
- The sourced whiskey from Tennessee (all but verified to be Dickel) uses a strange mashbill: 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malt. Why and who was this mashbill made for originally?
- The mashbill for Barrell Batch 003 says it was distilled (and aged) in Kentucky, yet uses this same mashbill: 70/25/5. Who made this mashbill in Kentucky and why is it the same as the Dickel one?
- Which TN and KY distilleries are so closely related that they used the same mashbill and had the same age distillate just hanging out, waiting to be snatched up 4 years before Barrell Bourbon even existed as a company?
I know this answer lies somewhere in the Diageo takeover of Seagram’s assets in the early 2000’s whereby Diageo snatched up Dickel (TN) as well as Bulleit (KY) Bourbon. According to the blog, bourbonr.com, Bulleit’s sole supplier of bourbon until 2013 was Four Roses. This would put the 5 year old bourbon that Barrell sourced “from a Kentucky distillery” in 2014 to be from Four Roses. The mashbill is a bit odd because Four Roses does not use a 70/25/5 mashbill, but perhaps Bulleit specified that mashbill from their contract with Four Roses.
So now that I have this longwinded journey to what is in this bottle today (a young, barrel proof Four Roses distillate that does not use any of their standard mashbill recipes), let’s open it up and see how it tastes. I sampled this neat and from a Glencairn.
Nose: There are sweet scents of cherry strudel, melted marshmallow, vanilla frosting and raspberry jam. There is a slightly young and grainy scent of cornbread lurking, which is kind of reminiscent of a Dickel product, but I digress… There are some more tannic notes lurking about, like a nicely fragrant charred wood and burnt pie crust.
Palate: The taste reveals the sweet baked goods of a cherry pie and cinnamon pinwheels. There is black pepper flakes adding some heat to the tongue but also a strong taste of pipe tobacco. Simple, yet rich in all of those tastes.
Finish: The finish sees the lovely cherry scents and flavors of the nose and palate replaced with something reminiscent of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops. A grainy note sticks around, showing the youth of the distillate, but there’s still a nice seasoned oak, rye spice, cinnamon spice and Werther’s Candies that stays in your mouth long after the sip is done.
I enjoyed this bourbon a lot and found all of the notes to be pleasing with only a hint of youth here and there. If this is indeed Four Roses, it’s not so in your face about it. But if it is, it’s probably very similar to the OBSV recipe with some sweet fruit here and there. The oak and spice in the profile doesn’t make it as light and fruity as Four Roses, which is even stranger.
This could easily pass as a Barton 1792 product or even an underaged Stagg Jr. I won’t get into the talk of value here, because frankly this hasn’t been for sale for at least 5 years now and the chances of finding this are next to none except on the secondary. But if you do get a chance to buy this bottle in the future, it’s interesting enough to experience for yourself.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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