Barrell Craft Spirits has spawned multiple labels over the course of their 8-year history. They didn’t always blend together barrels from different distilleries in the beginning, but all of that changed in late 2016. Barrell launched a new label called “New Year (2017)” which first demonstrated their ability to blend together barrels from multiple distilleries (Dickel, MGP and probably Barton). This blend preceded Batch 013, which was the first bourbon batched series to have blended more than one distillery’s barrels. Each year since, Barrell has blended together more barrels from more distilleries. Although they do not tell us which distilleries, they at least give us the state it was distilled from. This list grows on the back label with each following year.
Barrell Bourbon New Year 2022
For the 2022 release, Barrell has now added bourbon that was sourced from Ohio. My initial guess is that these came from Watershed Distillery or Middle West Spirits in Columbus. The reasoning behind that assumption is because they are both the largest producers of whiskey in Ohio. However, there was a large distillery in Fairlawn called Stillwrights Distillery (also known as Flat Rock Spirits) that was forced to close its doors in early 2021. Prior to closing, they had been contract distilling for a few other producers (notably: Hotel Tango in Indianapolis). Cheap barrels (like the kind from a fire sale) are exactly what Barrell looks for when they’re shopping their barrel broker’s inventory. Besides, it’s not like Barrell releases single barrels of craft bourbon anyway, they’re just looking for certain taste profiles to blend into a new batch of whiskey that may be missing something. So while I may not know where this Ohio bourbon came from, my money would be on a distillery that shut down over two that are actively growing.
This year’s New Year release comes in at a bit over 115 proof. This is great news as I’ve found that all Barrell releases seem to be vastly better once they’re over 110 proof. I’m assuming that a lot of the reason the proof climbed this year is because more young barrels were used in the overall blend. Barrell’s own website says that 5 to 9-year-old barrels were used with a few 14-year-old ones added in for good measure. So now that we have all of the stats down about this year’s batch, let’s see what it tastes like. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: Sweet fruit notes of cherry and strawberry compote greet my nostrils first followed by vanilla and a handful of toasted and cooked grains. The unusual scent of melon and fresh wildflowers serves as the single most interesting part of this dram and one that makes me leave my nose in the glass a couple seconds longer. Additional scents of chocolate, pecan pie, toasted oak and honey also can be found. The nose is lacking in spices except for the passing scent of cinnamon that reminds me of a fresh churro.
Palate: Just like the nose, notes of fruit find my tastebuds first. The flavors are a decidedly sweet affair with notes of pancakes with syrup, Oreos, cinnamon and grenadine syrup. More rye-forward “green notes” including mint, marjoram and rose petals make me wonder which whiskey brought it’s “A Game” for rye flavors. There are notes of orange and lemon that counteract the small amount of tannins I find by way of oak and tobacco. Finally, the Dickel seems to be present with a peanuts flavor accompanied with minerality and caramel. This is an extremely layered bourbon.
Finish: Really nice and sweet with what tastes like some toasted barrel influence. The oak has an almost “marshmallow aftertaste attached to it that pairs nicely with the leather and cherry tobacco. Traditional notes of vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar linger for a while. It’s such a rich, yet classic, finish to a great bourbon.
New Year’s releases are always a blast to experience. Imagine an annual event that you look forward to every year and it never lets you down, that’s Barrell New Year to me. I find each release to showcase more of a “how many different flavors can we pack in this bottle?” experience than a typical batch of Barrell Bourbon. It really is interesting to see just how many different distillery’s’ products can be brought together to create a liquid that actually tastes good. Bardstown Bourbon Company is hot on the heels of Barrell to fit everything but the kitchen sink into their Discovery series, but Barrell remains the OG in this category.
I believe that Barrell purposefully goes out of their way to make New Year the most over-the-top release that they can. Every year their crew must have a meeting where they try to one-up each other with a crazier idea. I know that they will never admit it, but sometimes it feels like the there is no rhyme or reason behind what they dump into the blend. The good news is they always get it to work and that’s what make these so fun to taste. In a world full of copycats and releases that all taste the same, it’s good to know that there will always be a Barrell New Year release that makes you ask “what the hell did I just taste?!”
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.