With each successive year, being able to obtain an allocated bottle becomes harder and harder. Many enthusiasts have already accepted the fact they won’t get this year’s hottest releases.
But part of the fun in bourbon hunting is finding bottles that nobody else has along with the hope that the whiskey inside is actually good.
This is why most enthusiasts have aggressively turned to hunting single barrel store picks instead.
Store picks are nothing new, but they’re gaining momentum with each passing year. Once upon a time a single barrel selection of almost anything took a while to sell.
Nowadays, depending on the whiskey being offered, they sell out on the same day that they’re released.
All of this commotion about single barrel picks have not escaped smaller stores, restaurants and bars. They have loudly campaigned to their distributors for the same access to these picks that other established stores have been getting for years.
The distributors have no other choice but to agree and in the end it has reduced the number of picks that everyone gets. As a final twist of fate, this has all led to a scarcity of all store picks which further perpetuates the cycle of finding a rare or unique bottle.
Indiana Brown Water Enthusiasts (IBWE)
The Indiana Brown Water Enthusiasts (IBWE) began as a group of members that wanted to secure their member’s abilities to obtain those hard-to-get single barrels by taking matters into their own hands.
They pooled together their resources to get access to desirable whiskey by partnering with local retailers. The local retailers benefit by selling more product at a faster rate which in turn should allow them to get more allocated products from the distributors.
When the single barrels comes in, they aren’t marked up to some astronomical price but rather sold either at cost or with proceeds going towards select charities.
The IBWE grew at such a fast rate that they have had some members unable to get access to every single barrel that was released.
This led them to conclude that they needed to release something that was large enough that everyone could get their fair share. The only way to achieve that is by batching together more than one barrel.
Cardinal Spirits in Bloomington, IN
It just so happens that Cardinal Spirits in Bloomington, IN has a program by which groups can sample through barrels of MGP and decide which ones they want blended together.
This trend is starting to catch on around the US but Cardinal is making it extra easy by also designing labels and bottling it themselves.
The IBWE went down to Bloomington during the summer of 2021 with select members to sort through the barrels in an attempt to find ones that would work well together in a blend.
This is no small task as blending typically requires a much longer process to ensure that all of the flavors play well together.
In the end, the team chose 6 barrels of MGP’s 21% rye bourbon mashbill. All of the barrels were aged at least 5 years.
The team decided to have the final batch proofed down to 105 proof before bottling in an effort to make this bourbon approachable to new bourbon drinkers while still retaining enough complexity that the enthusiast can enjoy it.
So how did the team do? I sampled this inaugural batch neat in a glencairn to find out.
I’m also picking up on a small amount of floral and herbal notes like rose petals, cherry blossoms, pine needles and mint leaf. Undoubtedly those scents show that while this may be MGP’s low rye mashbill, that the rye is still plenty potent.
Palate: This sensation on my tongue is immediately sweet and spicy. Notes of syrupy raisins and caramel fudge help to keep the oak spice and cinnamon in check.
Andes mints combine with toasted cornbread edges that show off the youth just a tad. The best part is that the mouthfeel retains a thick and oily nature which undoubtedly comes from the proof that they elected to have this bottled at.
Finish: Cinnamon spice rests on your tongue after the sip is complete. Some barrel char and leathery notes linger along with some pleasant oak wood. Notes of toffee and melted candy cane add sweetness with a touch of rye spice.
IBWE’s first batch release needed to demonstrate that a batched release was just as worthy as their single barrel picks were. And after sipping Batch 1, I think they nailed it.
I knew coming into this that it was going to be hard to cater to both new and seasoned bourbon drinkers at the same time.
I was thinking this blend would end up leaning towards the new drinker but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by how much this had to offer.
Experienced drinkers will find those layers of flavor that they demand from the bottles they have curated in their own bars.
Proofing down this bourbon was the right call because it allowed for additional sweetness to come out. And with all of the spice that I encountered, the sweetness was just what it needed to keep it in check.
The rye spice notes allowed the youth to hide in the background just enough to come off as layered in its flavors, not straightforward and boring.
In this day and age of single barrels being all the rage, it’s hard to know which ones to trust because there are so many. Sometimes you want to support a local group and not get duped by getting a barrel that really doesn’t speak to you.
That’s where these small batches really shine. If you’re a person who is just starting out, I would suggest to you to avoid the single barrels for a while. Wait until you know what you like before you roll the dice.
A small batch like this one has the power to show you that blends still can provide everything you’d want from a bourbon while lessening the risk that you won’t find any joy in it. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
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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