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Before Barrell Bourbon released Batch 010 in 2016, they had only released two previous bourbon batches that were not “Distilled in Tennessee” (which were from George Dickel). Those were Batches 003 and 004. They were almost assuredly from Barton Distillery too. But Batch 010 has no such doubt who was behind it. There was only one distillery in Indiana that could have produced a bourbon 8 years prior: the old Seagram’s Distillery – which was purchased by MGP in 2011. But the one weird part about Batch 010 is that Barrell’s website description says it was aged in Michigan. Huh?
If it was aged in Michigan, there are only two main culprits who were sourcing MGP barrels in enough quantity sometime between 2008 to 2016: Valentine Distillery (makers of Mayor Pingree) and Traverse City. Both of these distilleries were focused on making their own whiskey but both of them were also sourcing MGP’s until they could perfect their technique. Both of them also had a significant amount of barrels trucked from Indiana to Michigan to continue aging.
My theory is that Barrell somehow cut a deal with one of those two producers to buy excess barrels that they didn’t need anymore. I’m assuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35 barrels went into this batch while 4 of them were deemed good enough to put into Barrell’s single barrel program. These were Single Barrels with the code 9E62, 9E64, 9E65 and 9E66 on the front label.
However, I don’t think that was all they bought. I believe that this lot of barrels also contained some rather low-proof more mature barrels from MGP. These would serve as the backbone to future batches of Barrell Bourbon that required older stocks. Joe Beatrice has gone on the record during certain podcasts before saying that they secured a bunch of MGP barrels back in the day that had proofs ranging in the 80s (at cask strength!). They saved those for blending rather than putting them in their own batch or single barrel releases.
I’ll go one step further and say that I believe that Batch 010 was purchased from Valentine Distilling instead of Traverse City. I say this because Valentine Distilling released their first MGP age-stated bourbons in 2016 which were bottled anywhere from 7 to 10 years old. Traverse City didn’t start releasing age-stated MGP bourbons until a couple years later which may indicate they didn’t have any or have any leftover to sell.
Since these barrels saw some time aging in Michigan, does that mean that their maturation is stunted due to the colder climate? I’m not sure. So let’s take a look and see if this 8 year old bourbon tastes any older or less developed than what I’ve come to expect. As usual, I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: Deep, dark cherry notes hit immediately followed by butter-almond toffee. There is gobs of caramel that fill your nostrils as well as potent cinnamon and clove baking spices. The clove is especially dominant. There is also a pleasant aroma of sweet hay.
Palate: This tastes like it could be MGP’s High Rye Mashbill (36% rye). There is a lot of rye characteristics to include cinnamon, oak and a little bit of fresh grated ginger. I actually detected the MGP dill note a little bit, which is something I regrettably don’t pick up on much (or maybe I sense it as something else). There’s also sweet mint and cherry cough syrup as well.
Finish: All of the classic, bold MGP bourbon finishing notes that make this bourbon a real man’s bourbon. Tobacco, dry cracked leather, toasted oak. Then there’s some baking chocolate and menthol cooling notes. Then there is a lovely sweet, herbal taste that sticks around your tongue for an easy 5 to 10 minutes after the previous sip.
At 8 years old, this bourbon is just young enough to let some of the fruit notes show through while still having enough age to give off those terrific MGP tannic notes of seasoned woods and tobacco. I was thoroughly impressed with this bottle and wish I could find a second one. This was not a batch that hung out very long on shelves once people saw it was distilled in Indiana. The batches that came before and after it were also some of the best bourbons that Barrell ever put out, making this period of time one of the best times to be into a company like Barrell.
There’s nothing I have read to confirm this, but these seemed to be gobbled up very quickly and never talked about again… probably because MGP lovers in early 2017 were mourning the loss of cheap, accessible and highly-aged Smooth Ambler Old Scout bourbon. This began the period of time where older barrels of MGP became scarce because everyone started to chase them.
Barrell has never released another batch that used only bourbon distilled from MGP – Barrell Whiskey Batch 001 was close but used their corn whiskey – and they probably never will again. So if you find a bottle of this, I encourage you to drink it but also savor every pour because it’s the last time you’ll see something like this from Barrell ever again.
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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