Barrell created a lineup of whiskey products shortly after they launched their Bourbon lineup. Initially, Joe Beatrice was able to source American Whiskey from MGP that was a bourbon mashbill, but aged in twice-used barrels. The result was pleasantly surprising, but left him scrambling for what else to do with it. Then the idea came to him that he should start finishing the barrels in various casks that they had obtained to see what kind of unique flavors they could impart on the whiskey. Barrell Batch 004 is made by taking Dickel Bourbon and some of that MGP American Whiskey, splitting them in half, and finishing each half in either a rye barrel or a rum barrel.
Rye and Rum make strange bedfellows because of the spicy nature of the rye coupled with the sweet and funky taste of the rum, but Barrell is rolling the dice and bottling it at a very high cask strength (over 120 proof) and seeing what happens when these two worlds collide. I couldn’t resist trying it myself so I sat down and sampled it neat and in a glencairn.
Nose: This whiskey reeks of funky rum. That’s not meant to be derogatory to the whiskey, but if you’ve never had cask strength rum or rum from the islands, then you’re in for a wild ride with just how funky that some of those barrels can be. It’s almost like an extra kick of vegetal and earthy notes have gotten bottled inside of this sweet liquid. There almost appears to be notes of cola rising up from the glass. Wait, that’s it… this smells like a rum and coke at a bar… Oh, and there’s cinnamon and brown sugar lurking around as well.
Palate: If you can overlook the giant wall of rum on the front of your tongue, there is actually a lot of other flavors hiding right behind it. The rollercoaster ride begins with sweet orange marmalade. Meanwhile, a rye heat hits the back of your tongue with every sip, lasting for 3-5 seconds. Next up comes with both sweet and tart cherry juice, giving this a very fruity profile. But the dimensions don’t stop there, a creamy, almost marshmallow fluff mouthfeel coats your mouth and tongue. Now the flavor begins to morph even more into flat Dr. Pepper that has had rye spice blended in as well. So many flavors!
Finish: The sweetness prevails along with so many fruit flavors. There is guava, banana and pineapple juice that is spiked with peppercorns and papaya for even more spice. I do not detect any tannins that should be present from the aged product that was used, but that’s fine because There is not a hint of aged traits (leather, oak, tobacco) and for being a somewhat high proof, the alcohol is remarkably restrained.
I think a large part of my score comes from not only how delicious I thought this whiskey was, but just how unique it was as well. You just can’t find something like this rolling out from any other producer. Blood Oath #5 and High West’s Single Barrel of Rendezvous Rye finished in rum casks can come close, but neither are the barrel strength bomb that this is.
If you want the tropical ride of your life, Barrell Whiskey Batch 004 is where it’s at. The intensity of the fruit and the spiciness of the rye barrels really do play nicely together and leave a lasting impression that is somewhere in the gray area between barrel aged rum, spicy rye whiskey and American whiskey. I won’t question why it works, all I know is that I’ll drink it.
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 (13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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