Barrell Bourbon saw a giant rush to the shelves when Batch 011 was released in 2016. It quickly sold out as word spread of just how good it was. But then for all of 2017 and 2018, when the releases began to have blended distillates comprising each batch, the fervor fizzled out. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed all that Batches 013 through 016 had to offer and I felt like 017 was a huge leap that deserved many awards.
But Batch 018 launched and immediately earned a double gold and “best small batch bourbon 11 years and older” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and then completely vanished from the shelves. In fact, many Midwestern states hadn’t even received their deliveries of Batch 018 shortly after it won that award and it ended up having to wait an additional 2-3 months for it to arrive. Even at the time of this writing, it’s in short supply and will likely vanish from any shelves sometime in 2020.
So what about this batch made it so special? Well take for starters, the fact it uses only 11, 14 and 15 year old distillate. That’s a pretty old collection of barrels next to just about any distillery/producer. Barrell claims that this batch was a total “cinnamon bomb” of a bourbon and wanted to give this particular batch a ton of character and bite. Cinnamon can be a potent spice in any whiskey and this made me very intrigued to see what else it had to offer. So I grabbed a bottle as soon as I could and sat down with it to see what it was all about. I sampled this neat and in a glencairn.
Nose: The cinnamon nose on this is incredible and the first scent that you’re going to get. There’s a fun woody scent almost like a cedar cigar box, which shows its age. There are spiced plums and black cherries to give a really nice fruit profile followed immediately by all of the aromas that would come with a melted Three Musketeer’s Bar. In all of this depth, there is still a lurking amount of cornmeal that I have usually found in a lot of Dickel products. Finally, to add to the spices, I slowly begin to detect ground black cardamom in the background.
Palate: Each sip has a huge punch of heavy cinnamon spice There’s pie dough and baking chocolate along with toasted citrus peel. The tannins from those older barrels do make headway with notes of aged leather and mild tobacco. The mouthfeel is really nice with a thick, oily texture on the tongue
Finish: The finish is like the summary paragraph of a long essay. The whole thing wraps up with coffee grounds, the sweetness of a mocha latte cappuccino and, you guessed it, lots of cinnamon! The cinnamon spice kind of covers up some of the heavier tannins that I noticed on the palate, but you can still make out some spiced oak. Overall, very deep and a great way to finish the dram.
I was recently drinking Batch 018 side by side with Batch 020 (another batch I love) and actually noticed a difference in how much more rich and mellow that Batch 018 was, despite the cinnamon kick. Batch 020 is no slouch in the age department either, but I could tell just how well everything was jiving together to form a more cohesive front than anything I’ve seen before or since from Barrell’s blended distillates. It truly did deserve all of the awards it got and makes me question every day if I need to go grab a second bottle.
For me, a second bottle of any Barrell is its highest honor because not only are they not cheap, but so many batches are released each year that I usually save up to get the next one rather than buy multiples of previous ones. Take this for what it’s worth, but Batch 018 is the one bottle you’ll want to just stash in the bunker for 5 or so years down the road so that you can take it out and experience what a great blend this was all over 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)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.