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Barrell Bourbon New Year 2021 Review

Barrell Bourbon New Year 2021 Review

For all the more let-downs that 2020 gave us, Barrell Craft Spirits gave us some really great releases to help the year go by faster. 

And as they’ve done every year since 2016, their last release of the year comes in the form of a bottle that gives a toast to the year to come. 

The history behind the “New Year” label started with the 2016 bottling of Barrell Bourbon New Year 2017.  What was unique back then was that it was Barrell’s first release where they blended together bourbon from different distilleries.

Up until that point, Barrell had only batched together distillate from either KY, IN or TN by themselves.  

Nowadays, Barrell uses the New Year’s release as a way to play around with blending in craft distillate.  Although this part isn’t highlighted too much, they’ve been using distillate from Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Wyoming and New York to add very specific flavors and nuances to these yearly releases. 

So if you’re a fan of their regular batches because of the flavor complexity they have, then the New Year release should showcase even more. 

This year’s proof is also the second-highest proof that Barrell has put out (New Year’s 2017 was the highest at 117 proof) and that should really help in terms of the overall profile. 

Something I’ve noticed is how much better Barrell products are when their proof is higher.  So without further ado, let’s jump into tasting this!  I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.

Tasting Notes


Nose: The nose on this is complex and layered.  Fresh baked cornbread is typically a note I will find on most batches and it is one of the first notes I pick out. 

However, a burst of fruit like apricot jelly, apple turnovers and bright floral notes highlight just how bright the nose is.  There are additional scents of almond extract coupled with the nuttiness of dry-roasted peanuts. 

Sweeter aromas like vanilla buttercream frosting and simmering caramel help tie it all together nicely.  I’d be interested to see how many more notes will be unlocked with another month of air.

Palate:  There is a potent citrus zest note immediately upon the first sip.  As I settle into this drink, it morphs into a sort of Dutch Baby pancake with lemon zest sprinkled on top. 

There are rich, bold notes of heavy oak, peanut brittle and melted butter that are trading jabs with more bright and peppy notes of marzipan and cherry lozenges. 

The fruit notes on the nose turn slightly darker as flavors of Fig Newtons, dark raisins and Christmas fruitcake start to pile up on my tongue.  There’s also nice warming spices that add depth with notes of cinnamon and red pepper flakes.   

Finish: Old, tannic notes of seasoned oak, old leather and moist tobacco may be a result of the 10 and 11 year old barrels used in this batch, but I also wonder if it’s not the younger barrels from Texas that typically contain this sort of character. 

They’re the most upfront after the sip is complete, but I also detect the chocolate and mint flavors of a York Peppermint Patty followed by prickly spices of green peppercorns, cloves and cardamom. 

For as young as some of the barrels are in this blend, the finish tastes much older than you’d think.

Score: 8.2/10


As I went back through the different New Year’s releases, I got a glimpse of how different they all were.  The 2017 batch was much more of a heavy hitter while each subsequent batch focused on a wide range of flavors and scents that Barrell seemed to want to cram in there (not that this is a bad thing!)

The thing I realized was just how similar it was with to my second favorite release: New Year 2019.  This year’s release has found the perfect formula of starting off fresh and bright followed by a sweet center and then evolving to finish like it was a well-aged single barrel.  And I think that is an excellent formula to follow.  

Final Thoughts

So with this bottle now moving up into my #2 spot on all-time favorite Barrell New Year releases, where do we go from here?  Well hopefully to a year that will spawn batches that surprise and delight just like the year we leave behind. 

I am looking forward to see which state becomes a permanent fixture into BCS’s quarterly bourbon batches (my money is on Wyoming!).  I also think it would be awesome to see a purely wheated-bourbon batch come out (something that they began to explore with Bourbon Batch 025). 

But that’s the glory of a new year with new possibilities and I’m sure Barrell will always be up to the challenge.  Happy New Year!

Rating Breakdown

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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