Continuing on the previous mini-series where I looked at what Barrell was up to with their new line of Private Release whiskey finished in a cornucopia of various wine, rum and spirits barrels, today I look at the last 3 that Barrell sent to me.
When I first received this package, I was sure that the Armagnac finished barrel would be my favorite based on a recent Armagnac kick I’ve been on, but I’ve never tried a majority of the others.
When I saw Oloroso Sherry finished whiskey, I was weary because my experiences with Sherry finished bourbon has usually been very ho-hum.
Pear brandy sparked my interest though, because I’ve previously enjoyed some apple brandy and apple brandy finished products (Lairds, Bardstown Bourbon Co) and would imagine that they’re similar.
So without further ado, let’s dive into these last 3 finished whiskies!
Barrell Private Release finished in a Pear Brandy Barrel
Nose: Aromas of a freshly baked pear-and-apple cobbler fill the inside of the glass along with cinnamon rolls with vanilla icing. These sweet baked goods dominate all other scents, but are very enjoyable.
Palate: Rose wine and fruit juice demonstrate the lightness still exuded onto the base whiskey. There’s a little bit of brown sugar, but overall it’s not as sweet as you’d imagine it to be.
There are not-quite-ripe raspberries and some ethanol present, which is something I haven’t experienced with these whiskies yet. Apples in the form of apple pie can be tasted along with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, making the palate more complex with some great dessert attributes.
Finish: Herbal and outdoor notes of mint and orchard fruits abound in this whiskey. There’s candied ginger providing a little bit of heat and really bringing out a particular “high-rye” mashbill experience, which these are rumored to have. There is some spiced honey to lend some sweetness, but it doesn’t fully approach the sweetness that a bourbon would have.
This whiskey was enjoyable for all of the sweet traits and high-rye traits that it showed. This sounds odd to say in retrospect, but I had wrote down how closely I compared this barrel finish to other cognac-finished whiskies in the past. So if you’re a fan of cognac finished whiskies, this may be more for you!
Barrell Private Release finished in a Oloroso Sherry Barrel
Nose: Chocolatey scents surprise me at first. I was not expecting them in a finish like this. But then cherries, citrus wood cleaner and pipe tobacco scents also rush to my nose. This Sherry finish is doing things I don’t ever remember it doing for sherry-finished MGP bourbons I’ve previously tasted. There’s great oak wood scents as well as a sharp cinnamon aroma. It’s a fantastic nose.
Palate: My tongue is dazzled with the sweetness that I’m detecting. Frankly, sweetness does not abound in the base whiskey as much as it would in a bourbon, so this is a real treat. There’s liquid cherry Jolly Ranchers, Red Vine licorice and chocolate molten cake. I also am tasting cinnamon toast crunch cereal, which seems to be a trait that most of these whiskies have in common. The heat is restrained with a mild peppery bite, just enough to let you know this is 120 proof!
Finish: Black pepper heat intensifies but the sweet character of cherries, orange zest and brown sugar keeps it subdued enough. There’s also some great old wood characteristics within that are complimented nicely by allspice and anise (which is probably from the licorice on the palate).
I had a thought circled in my notes for this bourbon that read “drinks like a finished, chill-filtered wheated bourbon” for whatever sense that makes.
But every sip was sweet, fruity and chocolately, like a blend of Maker’s Mark and Weller bourbons. This whiskey uses rye in the mashbill instead of wheat, so you may be confused like I am how I continued to pull notes that reminded me of wheated bourbons out of the air.
Regardless of the mashbill, this is what I thought it most closely resembled and that’s not a bad thing! You may also note that this score ties the Tokaji Wine Barrel finished whiskey, yet both are very different.
Still, if you’ve been on the fence about Oloroso Sherry finished whiskey in the past, this one may surprise you as it did with me.
Barrell Private Release finished in a Armagnac Barrel
Nose: Dark, full-bodied red wine scents. Heavy oak spice and nutmeg scents with an earthy aroma that’s hard to describe. Vanilla buttercream lightens it up considerably.
Palate: Loads of pepper and cinnamon-spiced honey keep the dram spicy all the way through. There’s a lot of red wine character (similar to a Chianti) that keeps it layered and complex.
Fruits abound with the tastes of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and apple. A very satisfying palate overall.
Finish: Old tannic notes of oak, tobacco and worn leather tell your tongue there was some age on this. The Armagnac plays nicely with the whiskey that it was finished with.
There’s still lots of layers here with cherry juice, vanilla cake batter, baking spices and some more red wine. It’s very well done.
Armagnac has been one of my favorite barrel finishes of this year, so why isn’t this ranked higher than the Tokaji or Oloroso Sherry finished whiskey? I’m wondering that one myself.
I think it’s because my bar was set so high with Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend and Bardstown Bourbon Company Chateau De Laubade bottles that I found it a little bit wanting in terms of more depth.
This is not to say that this is a bad or flawed whiskey, just one that needs that little bit more “oomph” from a new charred oak barrel.
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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