In late 2018, Barrell Bourbon began to make some major changes within their brand. They abandoned their Barrell Whiskey and Barrell Rum batched releases while announcing that their new name would be “Barrell Craft Spirits.”
To celebrate this new change, they revealed a brand-new line that would carry the “Barrell Craft Spirits” name. Wearing silver and black labels, 3 different bottlings were released to include a 13 year old Rum, 15 year old Bourbon and 25 year old Whiskey.
Compared to the 15 year old Bourbon (which had about 15,000 bottles produced), the 25 year old Whiskey immediately sold out (which had around 570 bottles produced).
These bottles rarely appear on the secondary market and little is known or talked about with them. Since that 2018 debut, Barrell has released the 15 year old Bourbon every November and even released another BCS Rum in 2020, but we’ll likely never see another whiskey release again.
Barrell has kindly provided the fact that this 25 year old whiskey came from deep within the warehouses of MGP in Indiana. Being 25 years old, this whiskey would have been distilled under the old “Seagram’s” moniker.
Upon doing a little more legwork, I found out that this is actually a corn whiskey that was aged in used barrels.
Seagram’s had pumped out a fairly decent amount of corn whiskey in its heyday, but it was intended to be blended in with other whiskies within the portfolio.
It should be noted that this is not Light Whiskey, which Seagram’s helped to invent and consists of 99% corn and 1% malted barley (and is distilled around 185 proof).
Seagram’s Corn Whiskey contains some rye in the mashbill, which should be roughly 81/15/4 and is distilled and barreled at proofs comparable to their bourbon and rye whiskey recipes.
But rather than just bottle up highly aged corn whiskey, Joe Beatrice obtained some uber-rare Sercial Madeira wine barrels to finish this whiskey in.
Sercial is one of the driest wines in the Madeira family, but also the most mellow. The (fortified) wine is typically aged anywhere from 5 to 10 years, meaning these barrels were likely well-used and perfect for imparting their flavors into a whiskey.
So when all was said and done, how did this whiskey turn out? It’s not every day I get to drink a whiskey that’s 25 years old, so I was extremely eager to try this one. I sampled this neat and from a Glencairn.
Nose: Vanilla beans, butterscotch pudding and cloves start out as the initial fragrances I detect. But before I feel as if this would be a standard kind of whiskey nose, I start to pick up on some dark fruit notes.
That still seems normal, but wait, what’s this? Macadamia nut cookies with white chocolate chips? How is this a thing? I also am detecting cocoa powder, baked pears and sweet-smelling cigar ash. It’s a bizarre and wholly unforgettable nose.
Palate: Bright, vivid fruit scents dominate. They are hard to explain because they gradually transform into more acidic fruit flavors, but I wouldn’t say they’re similar to citrus.
There are flavors of red-wine reduction, brown butter and even Rosemary. Through it all, I can taste the underlying sweet cornbread note that also is accompanied by a note that I can only describe as “hot cooking oil.” I don’t know how else to put it into words.
Even though this was likely aged in a used barrel, I’m shocked to taste such deep wood notes. The whole palate is wrapped up delicately with a sort of melted vanilla ice cream body. This was a wild and intense ride.
Finish: The fruits on the palate become more defined after I finish my sip and open my mouth a bit. Orchard fruits come to the front but I also am experiencing lingering notes of mango and kiwi which are outright ridiculous.
There’s no way those two notes should be found in a whiskey, yet here we are. The finish does let the ultra-aged corn whiskey shine through the whole time, never letting you forget the base distillate, but instead of being somewhat hot and sharp like other corn whiskies (Mellow Corn), this dumps a ton of softer oak notes on your tongue.
There’s also a degree of herbal notes that seem to come in and out of focus as the finish fades away. Of note, the finish is only medium in length, but still extraordinary.
Sometimes a whiskey comes along that changes your world and introduces you to flavors and scents that you’ve never experienced. Barrell Craft Spirits 25 year old Whiskey is that whiskey.
For all the more intensity and perfectly tuned flavors it provided, I scored it just shy of a perfect 10 because of the shorter-than-expected finish. Outside of that, it was magical. I had to wait a long time to scoop one of these up, but it was absolutely worth it.
The thing that I still can’t wrap my head around is that we’ll likely never see this again. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of release (at least it feels like).
MGP likely had these barrels around not so much to sell, but as part of an old exhibit. But somehow Joe was able to buy them. The risk of finishing them in barrels that, frankly, I don’t think have ever been used to finish any kind of American whiskey in before was daunting.
Belle Meade uses Malmsy Madeira barrels to finish MGP bourbon, but that’s like shooting fish in a barrel (Malmsy is the sweetest of the Madeiras). But this finished product was absolutely incredible and was worth the risk.
The American whiskey world has seen some very lust-worthy releases lately from the company “The Last Drop” that are fetching big bucks and are unobtainable.
But this release right here is essentially the MGP version of “The Last Drop” only it features corn whiskey at an absurd age. The best part was that it was actually obtainable to regular enthusiasts for the low entry price of $350 once upon a time.
So although we may never see this anymore, it is a testament to the sourcing and finishing prowess of Joe Beatrice and the rest of the team at Barrell Craft Spirits. Job well done.
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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