It’s hard to believe we are already at the halfway point with Barrell Bourbon releases for 2022. That’s right, each year Barrell releases only 4 bourbon batches (excluding the New Year release and BCS Gray Label). For the last 4 years, Barrell’s 2nd annual release was usually one of their weakest. That’s just one man’s opinion and there’s no rhyme or reason why that seems to be the case, but most people would agree. If you’re a Barrell enthusiast, go back and ask yourself how much you liked Batch 016, 020, 024 or 028 in the grand scheme of things. I will say that I was a huge fan of Batch 024 (the second release of 2020) but I was in the minority on that one.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 032
So with that in mind, let’s look at what Batch 032 is made up of. Barrell claims they took two different batches of barrels and slowly blended them together over 3 months. That part is interesting because Barrell doesn’t often tell us tiny details like that unless they think it was vital to the end product. I’ve read that some producers in the industry have touted the concept of slowly adding water to their whiskey to proof it down. This is supposed to reduce the risk of saponification and generate less heat which leaves the delicate flavor compounds intact. Is Barrell trying to tell us something about this concept being applicable to blending whiskey together? I don’t know the answer to this, but there must be a reason they point out the amount of time they invested in blending together two batches.
Anyway, the two batches of barrels that were used were designed to blend together notes of tropical fruits highlighted with a creamy texture and the notes of older, more oak-driven barrels. Finally, there was a batch of barrels that contained heavy notes of cinnamon and spice that were added to create additional layers to the whole blend. The age of the barrels that were used in this batch seems like it is a bit on the young side overall which makes me wonder how it will impact the whiskey as a whole. But it’s rare that Barrell just dumps barrels together all willy-nilly, so let’s see what they ended up creating. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: Fruit, fruit and more fruit! Notes of banana bread, fresh squeezed orange juice and buckets of berries all show me that this batch is going to be a fruit-forward monster. Hints of lavender, bouquets of flowers and exotic tropical fruits create even more layers of fruit underneath that. I’m getting very little barrel influence on the nose, but I do detect a small amount of vanilla as well.
Palate: Initially, the fruit just explodes on my palate. There are so many tropical fruits in each sip, it’s wild. There’s mango and papaya and even a hints of kiwi and orange pulp. Oddly, the taste of coconut water can be found throughout and it’s light and refreshing. Dates, plums and figs all add a darker and more concentrated fruit flavor and hint to the barrel influence a bit. I mention this because it’s still hard to find any noticeable amounts of oak or tobacco. Let’s also talk about the mouthfeel for a moment as it has a very oily character which I find to be a very attractive quality in a whiskey. Count me impressed with a palate that focuses on just one thing for keeping my attention this long. Usually I want a buffet of different flavors, but this one is doing it for me. If I was tasting this blind, I would’ve sworn it was finished in rum barrels due to all of the extra fruit flavors it has imparted.
Finish: The fruit stays with you for a very long time. It basically smothers everything else. I find very little amounts of tannins on the finish. I think the 10 year old component must be extremely small because there is not a lot of wood, tobacco or leather hiding in here. If anything, dehydrated mangos are one of the most noticeable flavors that stick out on the finish. Pancake syrup, grape jelly and orange marmalade wrap up the finish to one of the more interesting bourbons I’ve had this year.
I don’t know what it is about this bourbon, but I’ve really grown to love it. Inside of this bottle are the most intense and interesting fruit flavors I’ve had in a bourbon in a very long time. This genuinely tastes “finished” even though I know it’s not. It’s just got this ever-changing flavor presence in your mouth that moves from one fruit to the next, never getting boring. This blend currently stands as my favorite Barrell Bourbon batch of the year (and we’ve still got two more batches to go!) and will be hard to usurp.
Fruit notes are the one thing that I feel really separate a “good” bourbon from captivating bourbon. If fruit is not important to you in your bourbon, by all means stick with a Heaven Hill, Beam or Turkey product. But for those of us that crave the most unique and dynamic whiskies out there, we demand our whiskies give us a cornucopia of fruit across the spectrum. Barrell Bourbon Batch 032 delivers that and much more. Make way, Batch 021… you’ve got a new fruit-basket bourbon to contend with and it’s going to go fast once more people start to taste it. Batch 032 truly takes the (fruit)cake.
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