Since it first hit the shelves, Barrell Bourbon has been a premium offering, and it has continued to move upmarket with the recently released Barrell Craft Spirits line. This first, very limited release includes three offerings: a bourbon, a whiskey, and a rum. The intent of the project, according to the folks at Barrell, was to showcase blends of spirits “defined by absolute balance and deep flavor layering” from barrels “selected for their refined properties and extraordinary flavor profile.” In short, these are the best of the best that Barrell could get their hands on. We recently sampled the bourbon in this lineup. It’s a blend of cask strength rye bourbons from Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky all of which are at least 15 years old, what Barrell considers to be “peak maturity.” Let’s see what perfectly aged bourbon tastes like!
Off the bat, the complexity here is striking. At first, the nose shows some grain with cornbread, buttery and savory with a slight sweetness. Then fruit takes over with candied orange peel and stewed pear, alongside dark chocolate mocha, caramel sauce, split vanilla bean, and a little wintergreen. The palate is oily and full of flavor, initially delivering juicy black cherry, flamed orange peel, and lemon drops. Those flavors should be rock candy sweet but that sweetness never quite takes control, tempered by a secondary wave of baking chocolate, peppery earthiness, and barrel char that takes things in a drier and more herbaceous direction. The conclusion is a third wave with more classic elements; butterscotch pudding, toasted marshmallow, and orange marmalade lead the way into a long and warming finish of cigar box and milk chocolate. A little water really brings out the savory elements in the nose – I get a slight candied bacon note – while the palate trends fruitier. Despite those cascading waves of diverse flavor, the whole thing somehow stays in perfect balance. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster, but an exceptionally fun one, albeit with an unfortunately steep price of admission.