At the end of 2016, Barrell Bourbon was riding the high of all they had achieved. Their bourbon batches were cleaning up at competitions, they had released a whiskey series and their single barrel program was getting excellent reviews. But whereas most of that could be attributed to excellent sourcing of barrels, the company really wanted to show off a true talent they possessed: blending.
Up until this point, Barrell had not released a product that blended multiple distillery’s bourbons into one batch (that would come in the middle of 2017 with the release of Batch 013). It was with their “New Year” line that Barrell began to experiment with the idea of taking some barrels from their Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky stocks and blending them into something special. The idea was that every year, they would create a special final release of that year, but this would be the first.
New Year 2017
New Year 2017 is made up of barrels ranging in age from 5 to 13 years old. The team at Barrell wanted to make something unique and balanced, which was going to prove far easier to say than do. But Joe Beatrice and Tripp Stimson went about it with the same fervor that they would later use for their Barrell Craft Spirits line. And speaking of that, I believe that Barrell’s New Year 2017 release was the original version of the BCS line, only it retained the traditional price point. As they got better at blending, they knew that they could find a way to use some truly special old barrels that they had stashed away for a special purpose.
Later on, Barrell would begin to change the idea behind the New Year release as something that was going to showcase up-and-coming distilleries around the US by blending some of their young products into some older barrels from traditional distilleries. So in some regards, Barrell New Year 2017 could be thought of as a “baby BCS” or even “BCS Jr.”
So how does Barrell New Year 2017 taste? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat and in a glencairn.
Nose: The nose starts out with a nice note of fragrant cedar wood and charred oak. There some passing notes of salted caramel latte and a little bit of peanut butter while vanilla frosting keeps it all very sweet. There is a kind of rye spice note like pine needles and star anise, which makes me think the Indiana distillate is of the high-rye variety.
Palate: I am pleased with the apple strussel and caramel drizzle notes that I taste right away. There’s also some dark red fruits that weave in and out while a spicy kick coming from a high-rye content keeps things interesting. The heat comes by way of black pepper flakes and ginger root, but doesn’t detract from the flavor, it just adds to it. The mouthfeel is oily, which I’m really pleased to find and with the oiliness, it brings out a nice oak and oiled leather tannic punch. I might not have found this with just Dickel distillate, but I’m feeling like the KY and IN distillate is helping a lot with these notes.
Finish: Honey glazed figs and toasted almonds and peanuts, almost like the flavor of some Payday Candy Bars. There’s some additional citrus notes of Key Lime Pie with graham cracker crust and finally, a hint of Galliano liqueur, which would explain the star anise scent on the nose. The rye content that is somewhere in the mix is really helping to create a nice depth overall.
There’s no other way to put this, but this version of the New Year Batch was a blast. It rocked each profile note that you’d want it to from beginning to end and was very bold about it all. I had a helluva time with this bottle and at the time of this writing (2020), it remains my favorite of the 4 New Years releases that I’ve had so far. The balance seems like it is a little off, but the intensity and broad spectrum of flavors makes up for it. There’s very little I could pick out as a negative in this bottle.
Out of all the New Years releases, this one had the least bottles made, which makes this one of the harder batches to find. So if you get a chance to buy one or even just have a taste, I highly recommend it. It’s that worth it.
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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