At least some mystery surrounds every Barrell release they’ve ever put out. That’s just the nature of the beast when you source every barrel. But there is one release in particular that has more mystery surrounding it than others: Barrell Bourbon Batch 004. What we know about this batch is that it is the second (and last) batch that was distilled and batched entirely out of Kentucky distillate.
From Batch 001 to 012, Barrell had always listed a mashbill that was used on their website. From Batch 013 onward, it became standard that they did not talk about mashbills because they were blending so many different distillates together. Batch 004 came out months after Batch 003 (which was also distilled in Kentucky) but was labeled as being 1 year and 4 months older in age, which meant that Barrell may have bought these barrels from two different distillers in Kentucky. Another thought I had was that since they left out the mashbill, is Batch 004 actually a blend of 2+ distillers bourbons? This could be the case as I’m not totally convinced that later batches that contained Kentucky distillate were entirely from one distiller inside of Kentucky.
But all of that barrel heritage can get tiring and I’m sure what you want to know is how this barrel tastes. So let’s get down to it and pour ourselves a glass. I sampled this neat and from a Glencairn.
Nose: The nose has a beautiful boquet of Christmas fruit cake. Sweet Luxardo cherries are the most identifiable as a fruit scent on this one though. There’s also a lot of baking spices with nutmeg and cinnamon taking the lead. Baked rolls with honey butter and vanilla beans remind me of days spent baking in a kitchen while the whole cascade of aromas is surrounded by this very pleasant and soft seasoned oak, almost like the scent of walking into a rickhouse.
Palate: There are lots of stewed red fruits on the tongue with cherry juice getting picked up by my tongue more than any other. I detect a nice oaky backdrop that I got on the nose, but once again it’s not too oaky, it’s just right. There’s some notes that I don’t detect everyday in my bourbon like eucylpytus and some minerals, although I’m not talking about the Flintstone vitamin minerals of a Dickel-sourced whiskey. To keep things interesting, I get a lot of peppery spice as I roll it around in my mouth. It’s moderately hot throughout the drink, but nothing too terrible. More like a smoldering chili powder than anything. The palate has a somewhat funky taste to it that doesn’t exactly fit into any distillers that I can recall. Barton’s 1792 Full Proof is coming to mind, which would probably make sense because 1792 Full Proof was released in 2016 as an 8.5 year old bourbon, making this timeframe fit with some rough math.
Finish: The finish comes on strong with sharp rye notes with some mint and a little bit of grassy-ness for contrast. For sweetness, I get some crystalized honey as well as some very deep oak spice and fruitiness that comes off like dried cherry and apricot bits.
Although this had some delicious aspects to it, it’s hard to say that this broke the mold from any other Kentucky bourbon I’ve had before. In fact, I’d place this firmly in the realm of a “classic” style of Kentucky distillate, but it’s still an great pour. It also tastes older than its 6+ year age designation leads on, which once again, could be because Barrell only has to state the minimum age of barrels they use.
But if anything, these barrels probably were sourced from higher in the rickhouse to get the most oak flavor in such a short period. In the end, these barrels were well sourced and blended, but fall a bit short compared to a Four Roses Private Selection or an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, both of which cost below the retail price of this batch. In fact, a great 1792 Full Proof store pick would have gotten you the same (or better?) flavors for about half the price of this.
I always have enjoyed Barrell products because of their uniqueness and the fact you can’t go to another company to find the same flavors and profile. But when their products are too similar to standard Kentucky releases, then they lose their attractiveness. I’m glad I own this bottle, but there’s many more batches I’d recommend before tracking this one down.
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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