The Barn at Bay Horse Inn
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Local to where I live in Indiana is an event center called The Barn at Bay Horse Inn. As you might expect, the center was built in the style of a barn next to an actual barn that used to house horses owned by the owners. Barns are high on the list of structures that engaged couples in the Midwest want to be married in – just above a VFW Banquet Hall but slightly below a Country Club Golf Course. Of course, The Barn does more than just weddings, it’s also an event center where I got my first taste of this bottle of bourbon. They hosted a trivia night to benefit the local school district and I’m a guy who just can’t say no to trivia.
On the night of the trivia contest, I looked over the saloon’s drink menu and was surprised to see they offered their very own brand of bourbon. The menu did not specify where it was from, so I ordered a pour and decided to taste it blind to see if I could guess its origin. My tasting notes lined up with what I commonly find in MGP bourbon, so I went into the saloon to take a look at the bottle and see if I was right. Sure enough, the label said it was “distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN.”
Buying your very own barrel of bourbon – it’s easier than you think!
Nowadays, buying your own single barrel of whiskey is more simple than people give it credit for. Companies exist specifically for helping individuals, groups or liquor stores to pick out what they want (within reason) and bottle it up for them. In Indiana, everybody knows that if you want a barrel of MGP for yourself, just head to Bloomington to check out Cardinal Spirits. Cardinal Spirits buys barrels in bulk to bottle under their own brand while also allowing other entities to work with them.
Krogman’s is one such bottler and is responsible for helping The Barn at Bay Horse Inn’s owners to pick out their own barrel. You may have heard of Krogman’s being started up by Big Red Liquor’s owner Matt Colgazier along with a group of friends. So while the barrels were definitely setting around the Cardinal Spirits facility, the label of this bottle wears the Krogman’s name.
Shortly after the folks at The Barn picked this 6 year old barrel, Drew Black and the Circle City Whiskey Company grabbed up the remaining 6 year old barrels. The Barn got lucky with their timing and would have had to pick a much younger barrel if they waited any longer.
What’s in the bottle?
Analyzing the label, we can see that the picture on the front features The Barn at Bay Horse Inn’s front facade coupled with the same style of font as the “Live, Laugh, Love” sign your wife put up in the kitchen. How soon until this font disappears from home decor stores? Asking for a friend.
Details of the bourbon inside are scant, but include where it was distilled – Lawrenceburg, Indiana (so, MGP) and its age (6 years old). The proof was also listed at 100. I assume they didn’t want theirs bottled at cask strength so that it would appeal to a wider audience and also cut costs a bit if it is used in a cocktail.
Doing some detective work on their Instagram, I see that told us the mash bill is MGP’s low-rye (LESV) bourbon recipe which uses 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. Also, because the barrel has its bung on the top of the barrel head, that means it was aged on a pallet standing upright. Why does that matter? It tells us that it was aged inside one of the many new metal warehouses that MGP constructed since 2013. They had to build them since capacity in their traditional multi-story brick warehouses was running out. These metal warehouses were designed specifically to rapidly age more barrels over a shorter period of time to satisfy the growing list of customers.
As I mentioned earlier, I initially had this bourbon blind without knowing its origin. So I figured I would actually publish those tasting notes so you can see what was going through my mind and how I came up with the assumption it was from MGP.
Nose: Baking spices immediately hit my nose with cinnamon and star anise. Sweetness layers on top with a brown sugar scent. 6 years in a barrel makes the grainy notes virtually disappear, but I did feel like I found some grain in the form of cornbread occasionally. Fruit notes like raisins, cherries and orange zest are always a treat to find. Finally, the oak tannins are noticeable and provide some great depth, but aren’t as in-your-face probably as a result of it being proofed down some.
Palate: As the session progresses, the fruit notes establish themselves a little bit more. With every sip, cherries, fig and orange zest become more intense. The brown sugar note keeps the sweetness steady. Vanilla and gingerbread appear on the tongue and offer a nice contrast. Cinnamon is the primary baking spice but the anise still lurks around showing the large amount of rye used in this mash bill.
Finish: A decently long finish complete with more brown sugar (and a touch of spiced honey) as well as cinnamon and a touch of mint. The brighter fruit notes like citrus and cherry drop off early while the darker ones like raisins/figs last longer. Vanilla isn’t as strong, but still presents itself well. The perfect finishing touch is how well the oak and a hint of tobacco lingers on my tongue.
True to form, MGP bourbon always offers a really robust drinking experience even when proofed down. There’s something about it that hits harder and delivers a fuller mouthfeel than the chill-filtered versions other brands bottle (especially those from Kentucky). Even if the owners of The Barn at Bay Horse Inn did not know much about MGP before they made this pick, they chose correctly because it’s something that would always do well neat, with a cube or in a cocktail.
As far as I know, you can’t buy this bottle anywhere so that does kind of make this review a little silly. It also cuts out the part where I tell you if it’s a good value or not. I do know that I paid $18 for a pour (see picture of the pour) and that the bottle’s wholesale cost was somewhere between $55 and $60, so they’re making a pretty good profit off of each glass they sell.
This review was more about informing you that that if you’re a person who is looking for a single barrel (or two) for their business, that options like this exist. And if you’re at an event center, bar or liquor store that has their own brand of bourbon, chances are it came from one of the many companies that specialize in selling barrels like this. There is a whole other world of bourbon outside of what you can find on your store shelves. What private barrels have you seen?
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