Review: Barrell Gold Label Bourbon

Review: Barrell Gold Label Bourbon

Barrell has lately been finding lots of different ways to show off its stocks of older Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee bourbons. For starters, some has been finding its way into their standard Batch blends, which has likely contributed to the consistently high quality of that line in recent years. The introduction of the Gray Labels in 2018 became a home for some of the most prized and well-aged bourbon parcels, none of which has been bottled younger than 15 years. I didn’t think Barrell could move more upmarket than that, or needed to, but at the close of 2021 they dropped their newest, super premium offering, Gold Label. Here are the deets:

Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon is a blend of 16- and 17-year-old straight bourbons. Barrels for this release were selected from four different collections: cherry bomb barrels with a rich mouthfeel, nutty oak-forward barrels, high proof and high complexity barrels, and barrels with pronounced milk chocolate notes. The last group underwent a secondary maturation in toasted virgin American oak casks before being added to this intricate and seductive blend.

This blending approach isn’t all that different from what Barrell has done with their Batch releases in recent years, with the exception of the toasting, the use of exclusively 16-17 year old bourbons, and of course the color of the label. Let’s see what’s underneath all that bling, shall we?

The nose is intense and deep. “Seductive” is an appropriate descriptor, but there’s also a unique earthy quality here. The toasting has added a complex oak dimension, but it’s more sandalwood and caramelized sugar, not the typical pastry sweetness or chocolaty notes. Cigar wrapper and dry baking spices arrive in time, along with sweeter aromas of grilled peaches and dark berry compote. The palate is big and round with buttery gingerbread, clove, and barbecue smoke which imparts a nice savory quality. Stewed stone fruits give things a consistent, if restrained, sweetness. An unexpected pop of rock candy and chai spice on the finish wrests a youthful brightness out of all that mature bourbon, if only briefly, before rich notes of seasoned oak and pipe tobacco tuck in for the long haul. The price of admission is steep, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything else quite like this on the shelves.

113.54 proof.

A / $499 /

Barrell Gold Label Bourbon




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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