In 2015, Barrell Bourbon branched out from offering just bourbon batches with the release of their Barrell Whiskey line. Then in 2016, Barrell jumped into the foray of bottling their own Rum line. Then finally, lovers of rye whiskey got their wishes granted with Barrell launching their rye whiskey lineup in mid-2017. At the very end of that year, they launched Rye Whiskey Batch 002 and then… nothing. For over 24 months, Barrell continued to release more bourbon, whiskey and rum bottlings but seemingly abandoned their rye whiskey line. Yes they had the single barrel 13 year Canadian Rye Whiskey offerings that were released at the end of 2018 and well into 2019, but these were even higher priced and not as widely available.
Rye Batch 003
Finally, in 2020, Barrell announced they were rolling out with Rye Batch 003 as well as their new single barrel rye whiskey program that had a choice between a 4 year MGP rye whiskey and a 14 year Canadian rye whiskey. All seemed right in the realm of rye world… that is until the blend statistics were announced for Batch 003. It consisted of a young MGP rye whiskey, a young Dickel rye whiskey (which is really just MGP but filtered after it is aged), a Polish rye whiskey (which was used in Rye Batch 002) and 13 year old Canadian Rye Whiskey. So it seemed as if there was nothing new being offered here, just a re-blending of barrels that maybe hadn’t made the cut from Batch 001, 002 and the Canadian Rye line. I was somewhat discouraged that there seemed to be no new distillate that found its way into the line.
But while I was buying my Bourbon Batch 023 recently, I noticed that Rye Batch 003 was setting there looking lonely, so I thought “aw, what the heck” and put it in my cart. It sat unopened for a little bit until I got the itch for a rye whiskey one night. So I decided to pour a dram to see what the story was with this batch. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: The nose starts off with some trademark MGP rye whiskey traits. I’m getting some sweet dark brown sugar notes mixed with a pine forest. There is a nice, semi-sharp note of citrus peels (orange and lemon) that I’m guessing is from the Polish Rye. The best scent, however, is the freshly baked gingersnap cookies that continues to build in intensity as the dram goes on. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and spicy aromas that make me eager to keep nosing this. I also detect a small amount of burnt caramel that adds a bit more depth to the whole mix.
Palate: The Canadian Rye Whiskey comes out to play in a big way with dominant notes of fresh herbs, peppermint and a slight astringency. But while I can clearly pick out the notes that came from that northern juice, I also begin to enjoy the flavors of baking chocolate mingling with a strong orange oil flavor. There is cinnamon and black pepper flakes that give this whiskey the spice that you would expect from a proper rye. But it is the sweetness that really rounds this all off and makes it feel like a complete rye whiskey with a big punch of gingerbread.
Finish: The Polish Rye Whiskey continues to make itself known in every profile elements with lingering flavors of orange peel and cocoa powder. There’s peppermint and handfuls of garden herbs and floral notes. Although the finish isn’t hot, there is a nice cinnamon cake spice element that helps round it all out very well.
Looking back at my notes for Barrell’s previous two rye whiskey batches, I noted that they were very different beasts with Batch 001 being more of a traditional Indiana rye profile and Batch 002 being almost nowhere near the spectrum of rye whiskey, but offering plenty of desirable orange and chocolate notes. They were completely different. And while I enjoyed them both, their scores show that they were both missing that extra “something” to really push them into the excellent category. Well I can safely say that Barrell has found what they were both missing and it may have been their decision to blend everything together including the Canadian rye whiskey. All of the sudden, every flavor and scent adds onto the next and is better for it. Everything just melds perfectly.
My collection contains many rye whiskies from many different realms (Canadian, Indiana, Kentucky, craft) and they all scratch a particular itch in the spectrum of rye whiskey, but none of them do it completely. Kentucky Ryes typically lack a big rye punch, but deliver sweetness. Indiana Ryes have a lot of great things going for it but sometimes don’t capture the floral and herbal notes that capture the light, sharpness that rye should have. Canadian Ryes deliver huge loads of earthy, grassy character but can sometimes be lacking in sweetness or body. But it turns out that by combining all of those elements, you can actually have your cake and eat it too.
To the rye whiskey lovers out there, this may be one of the most unique rye whiskies you’ve ever tasted and yet it’s instantly recognizable. It exemplifies everything you’d want out of a rye whiskey and leaves no stone unturned. I would absolutely recommend this to either a rye beginner or a rye connoisseur because it does everything so well. And although there will be new releases of products like Kentucky Owl Rye or Thomas H. Handy this year, this bottle has what it takes to be considered for my “rye whiskey of the year.” It’s that good.
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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