I am one of those people that just “get” what Barrell Craft Spirits is trying to do. They’re always on the lookout for the most interesting and unique barrels out there, even if they don’t immediately have a plan on what to do with them yet. Traditional bourbon purists tend to scoff at the batches that Barrell puts out. That is because Barrell searches for the overlooked mashbills or experimental batches from other distillers (cost is probably a large factor in this decision too). Take their Barrell Rye Whiskey Batch 002. They already had their hands on a low-rye MGP rye whiskey (51% rye, 49% malted barley) and they were looking for another rye to blend it with.
They stumbled upon some Polish Rye whose quick stats show that it was made from 100% malted rye (interesting!) and put in a new barrel that had a level 3 char and that it was distilled and aged in Poland. But I have heard a rumor that the company that created this rye actually shipped their barrels over to their new distillery located in St. Petersburg, FL. So yes, it came from Poland, but it was already here when Barrell found it.
Anyway, back to the rye, in a podcast interview I was listening to, Joe Beatrice says that this particular rye was so dry, nutty and off-profile that he could not use it alone and it would have to blend it with something. This is why he chose an already very good rye that could stand alone, the 5 year old MGP low-rye whiskey, and blended them together. So what happened when these two were blended in a vat? Let’s take a look. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: A strong sting of orange extract oil will fill up your nostrils quickly. Then as you begin to drink it, it begins to morph into Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with the orange icing. There’s another layer separate of the orange notes where it begins to smell like crushed up Whopper’s chocolate malted balls. And finally towards the end of the dram, I started to pick up on unsalted mixed nuts notes.
Palate: A mouthfeel that starts off as thick but then turns super-thin halfway through. That orange extract oil is back along with toasted orange peel. It’s very unique when there are two unique orange notes at play here! There is semi-sweet chocolate chips on the tongue, but after a while, you can taste the grainy malt character that now seems just like the “Whopper’s” candy I mentioned in the nose. Overall, for ryes, there is not much heat on my tongue for being 117 proof..
Finish: The finish has more of the same orange-frosted baked goods sweetness mixed with caramel that lasts for a very long time. There’s very little tannic qualities, but the strong orange character is overall very delightful.
I’ve sampled this with friends and read other reviews online and there’s one consensus that I’m starting to see. People are either getting the strong chocolate and orange notes that I did, or they’re getting a strong, bitter rye that’s thin and reminds them more of a Canadian rye whiskey. I’m in the former camp. So much so in fact, that if I were to have this blind, I may mistake it for something other than whiskey. But this rye is fun and unique and I really find myself craving it if I’m in the mood for something different that day.
The fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at things) thing is that these are still very available at stores that typically sell Barrell. Even though it came out towards the end of 2017, so little was known about them that many customers shied away from it. But if you can find one for around $70 like I did, I think it’s a very worthwhile bottle for your rye whiskey collection.
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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