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Barrell Craft Spirits 15 Year Bourbon Comparison (2018 Release vs 2019 Release) Joint Review

Barrell Craft Spirits 15 Year Bourbon Comparison (2018 Release vs 2019 Release) Joint Review

In early 2019, I received a message from a member (u/dburke17) on a subreddit called r/bourbon.  He was inquiring if I had ever had a batch of Barrell Bourbon that he found locally and was entirely blended from MGP barrels (Batch 010). 

He would eventually help me secure my first bottle of that batch and we’ve kept in contact ever since. 

These days, you can find him talking about whiskey on his Instagram handle @oakandtime and in bourbon groups in both Austin and New Jersey. 

Earlier this year, we began to talk about Barrell Craft Spirits 15 year bourbon and the possibility of doing a joint review because he had a bottle of their 2018 release and I had a bottle of their 2019 release.  We each sent each other a sample of the bottle we had so that we could do a comparison review.  


Mike – Bourbon Culture

Danny – @oakandtime


Mike: Let’s start things off by hearing what your thoughts are on the bourbon scene in Austin compared to New York.

Danny: I was based in Brooklyn, but got connected with the New Jersey crew by posting on Reddit looking for a group to join.  None of my friends were really into whiskey and I wanted to learn and drink with some likeminded people. 

I was probably into bourbon for a year and never found my NY bourbon feet, but the NJBYC (New Jersey Bourbon and Yacht Club) was awesome.  Just a bunch of regular guys who wanted to drink good whiskey and talk about it.  That was my vibe.  Only problem was I lived about 2 hours away from them. 

Austin has been super welcoming as a city and as a bourbon community.  I made some connections right away thanks Scott ( and already feel like I’m more in the scene here than I was in NY.  There are a few main stores in town that do good picks and a plethora of bars with decent selections and price.  Finding rarer bottles here is a different animal than NY though.

Mike: So it’s harder to find rarer bottles or more expensive?  Or both?

Danny: Well it’s different.  You can get lucky and find bottles at retail price like W12, ETL, etc at places like Total Wine and Specs.  In NY City, you could find any bottle you ever wanted, but it was super pricey. 

But venture into upstate or in NJ and you can find all kinds of lower end allocated/harder to find items on the shelves.  That doesn’t happen here.  It’s behind the counter.

Mike: That’s interesting and I know what you’re saying.  Recently in Indianapolis, one of our liquor chains put up a display case with all of your Pappy’s and what-have-you’s for four digit prices.  These bottles still set on the shelves here because we’re not that kind of area, unlike NYC.

Mike: So what was the best bottle you’ve ever found on the shelf and bought in TX?

Danny: I found Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend on the shelf, ha.  Also, a liquor store manager that I made friends with offered me a Willet 7 year old bourbon at retail.

Mike: That story sounds like mine in Indianapolis!  I was also able to get a Willett 7 year bourbon for retail and found a Cigar Blend on the shelf at the Rural Inn. 

So we initially met because you told me you had a lead on a Barrell Bourbon Batch 10, right?  At the time, were you into Barrell Bourbon?  If so, what batches have you enjoyed?

Danny: That is how we met.  That was when I was just getting into whiskey.  I had read about Barrell on Reddit, probably your posts, and in other places but never bought a bottle because they were expensive (or what I thought was expensive at the time for a bottle).  To this day, I have not had many other Barrell products. 

The MGP bottle is good, but kind of a one-off.  I have a Batch 16 which I enjoy for sure, but it’s nothing to go nuts about.  And then the BCS 15 first release which I think is great.  I also didn’t offer to get you the bottle because I was a Barrell fan, I was just helping out a fellow bourbon fan.

Mike: That’s nice of you, man.  I really appreciate it to this day.

Danny: I got the BCS because Ryan (u/northernbourbonite) brought a bottle to a meet up and I was floored by it.  Made it my mission to find one for an “okay” price.  I was super excited to be connecting and helping.  And look at us now!

Mike: That’s cool you bought a Batch 16 though, I thought it delivers what they say (toasted orange notes).  It’s neat how they can blend and still get that in the end. 

I sampled that BCS15 that you gave me and found that I liked it so much, I had to find one for myself, which I did right at the beginning of this whole COVID-19 thing.  So what is it about the BCS15 that really spoke to you?  What made you have to go get one?

Danny: It was the nose. We had just done a tasting for our Maker’s Mark Private Select (see review here).  Ryan broke out the BCS15 and the nose was sensational. 

I had never smelled a whiskey like that before.  It was so layered and complex with so much going on.  It was a pivotal moment for me with whiskey I think.  It showed me what a high end bottle could bring to the table. 

At the time, $200-300 for a bottle was insane to me but this hobby quickly changes those perceptions.  I remember the moment very vividly for some reason.  Ryan is always very generous with his bottles and I think he really enjoyed sharing it with the group.

Mike: You’re right, he is a generous dude!  Was the MMPS that you’re talking about the “Gold on Gold” pick?

Danny: Yeah, it was our first group pick.  I was super nervous to talk about flavors and aromas with the group.  But once we got going I realized no one there was some expert.

Mike: Speaking about flavors and aromas, let’s dive into these two bottles of BCS15 shall we?  When it comes to the nose of the 2018 version, I was super impressed by the dense amount of chocolate and tobacco notes that I found.  It reminded me of a proofed-down version of GTS 2014 and 2016 that I got to try recently.

Danny: I got a nutty fudge that I really enjoyed.  Some standard bourbon notes of vanilla and baking spices with a bit of Dickel mixed in.  After I went back, I got a touch of oak and cherry.

Mike: Your descriptor of nutty fudge is cool, I like that a lot.  I also got a nut flavor, but found it to be similar to almond butter!  

Danny’s Tasting Notes of the 2018 Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon

Nose: Sweet with depth.  Nut filled fudge.  Vanilla.  A hint of baking spice.  Butter cake.  A faint aroma of Dickel but not in an off-putting way.  It just peeks through to let you know it’s there.  After going back, a very small amount of oak peeks out and a slight cherry note is also barely there.

Palate: The nose is the winner on this.  The palate doesn’t live up to it, but it’s still good.  Not as sweet as the nose with a little more Dickel flavor and a little spice. 

There is some of the chocolate fudge from the nose, but more muted.  It mingles nicely with the Dickel profile.  Also, I found a bit of citrus; an orange note that cuts through nicely.

Finish: Long with chocolate being the main flavor but hints of leather and tobacco pop up.


Mike’s Tasting Notes of the 2018 Barrell Craft Spirit Bourbon

Nose: Almond Butter, cedar cigar box, vanilla buttercream, cherry pie filling, dark chocolate, fresh shoe leather, a tiny bit of citrus kick

Palate: Lots of chocolate!  Red fruits with the standout being ripe strawberries.  Rich pipe tobacco, peaches, pecan pralines and oak spice

Finish: Buttery smooth finish, chocolate + tobacco hang around like a lower proofed old-school GTS.  There’s lots of toffee while very mild oak tannins linger

Danny’s Tasting Notes of the 2019 Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon

Nose: Not as complex as the 2018.  Light scents of nuts, a bit astringent (but not gross).  Some under-ripe fruit, maybe apple.  Going back to the glass again I get a little cocoa note but it fades quick.

Palate: Sweeter than the 2018 with a little more spice.  I was first hit by some wood and leather notes and then found citrus.  A wave of chocolate and some Dickel notes come in later.

Finish: Not as full of a finish.  I get some sweet chocolate on the tongue, but that’s it.  It fades and doesn’t last in my throat like the 2018.

Mike’s Tasting Notes of the 2019 Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon


Nose: Spiced cedar wood, some charred oak, soft powdered cinnamon, ripe red apples and cherries, molasses cookies, red berries.  There’s a little minerality, like crushed rock dust. I smell the infamous Dickel peanut note, but turns into toasted almond as the dram goes on.

Palate: Rich and thick with a nice coating of chocolate and cinnamon.  There’s some great oak and sweet pipe tobacco as well.  Everything melds very well after sip #2.  Brown sugar, York peppermint patty and red fruit preserves really bring this all together. 

Finish: Some rye spices and menthol linger.  Mint, gingersnap cookies, brown sugar, charred oak, a wet cigar butt and a nice smoldering red pepper burn all the way down.  

Mike: I’m still up in the air on a score for the 2019 BCS15… it’s not a 9 by any means, but for me an 8.5 feels both about right and too generous at the same time. 

Your notes and my notes aren’t too far off in terms of depth and profiles detected.  You did a great job!  However, I also see that we agree that the 2019 was not as good as the 2018.  And that was my main reason for coming together with you on this, would we both arrive at the same conclusion?

Danny: Oh yeah, it’s not even close.  It’s more than a .5 difference to me I think.

Mike: So what rating scale would you use and what scores would you give these two?

Danny: Well it’s my first review and I’ve never assigned a score to anything.  I feel like a 10 point scale makes more sense than a 100 point scale.  If pressed, I would say a score of 8.5 for the 2018 BCS15 and a 7 for the 2019 BCS15.

Mike: Oh wow!  That actually seems very fair.  So knowing what you know tonight, would you buy the 2020 release of BCS15 without tasting it first?

Danny: Knowing that they just set on the shelf, I might wait to see how people react first before jumping in.  But it would be a bottle I would be interested in for sure.

Mike: I am also very reluctant about buying these at retail as well.  We even have a big liquor store chain around Indianapolis that sells these for $199.99 which is the best (retail) price I know of!

Danny: That’s a great retail price.  I actually bought 2 of the 2018s because I got a better price and thought I would sell one.  But in the end I decided not to.

Final Scores




2018 BCS15: 8.5/10

2019 BCS15: 7/10



2018 BCS15: 9/10

2019 BCS15: 8.2/10

Mike: Okay, so now that we’re done with the review, are you ready for some rapid fire questions?  The goal is to answer as quickly as you can so the answers are more honest *laughs*

Danny: Okay, let’s go

Mike: Which bottle do you think gets reviewed too much on Reddit or any other platform?

Danny:  Eagle Rare.  I don’t get it.  It’s fine but people here fawn over it.

Mike: If you could by only one bottle for the rest of your life at the price it actually retails for, what would it be?

Danny: SAOS Single Barrels from days past.  

Mike: What was the first bourbon you ever drank?

Danny: I don’t know about bourbon but we used to drink Johnny Walker Red label in High School and play dominos.  I can’t remember my first bourbon but when I was drinking whiskey without any knowledge of it, I bought a lot of Basil Hayden.

Mike: That works!  What are your top 3 brands for bourbon or rye?

Danny: MGP (or Smooth Ambler to be more specific), Heaven Hill and Michter’s.

Mike: Nice list!  What your favorite bourbon under $45?

Danny: Knob Creek picks, but that is pushing $45 these days.  So if people think that’s over $45, then I’d say Old Ezra 7 year old Barrel Strength.

Mike: What is your favorite new release from last year?

Danny: It’s a tie between Nashville Barrel Company Single Barrels, Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Apple Brandy finish or Idle Hands.

Mike: Great answers!  I hate to say it, but this is the end of the review.  I hope you had fun with it!  I know I did!

Danny: It was fun!  I was nervous but really enjoyed it.


Thanks again to Danny Burke for the sampe of 2018 BCS15 and for taking the time to do this review with me.  To follow him on social media, look him up on Instagram @oakandtime and on Reddit at u/dburke17

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