Barrell Bourbon ended 2021 with Batch 31 of its flagship bourbon and kicked the new year off with Batch 32. Each release is a blend of sourced stocks from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, which has become a consistent theme in recent years (with the exception of Batch 30). Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find that these are both pretty different animals. I’ll let Barrell explain the finer points.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 031 is a blend of 6, 7, 10, 15 and 16-year-old barrels. The blend was built around the sweetness in a group of 99% corn bourbon barrels and a group of wheated bourbon barrels. To bridge these two groupings, we layered in 15 and 16-year-old barrels for their gentle nuttiness and oak. Finally, a selection of 10-year-old barrels was added to bring notes of milk chocolate and tropical fruit.
Batch 032 began with a balance of two sets of barrels: a selection of 5 and 6-year-old barrels with a creamy and tropical profile and a selection of 6, 7 and 10-year-old barrels vatted for their complex, old, woody character. These two sets of barrels were slowly blended over three months. A small group of spice driven 7-year-old barrels with notes of cinnamon toast, coffee bean and chocolate were then carefully added to complete the blend. The result is a decadent and rich bourbon with layers of spice and nuttiness.
The blending wizards at Barrell have clearly been hard at work. Let’s see what’s what with these two.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 31 – The nose is sweeter than most Barrell releases with lots of light brown sugar and Demerara syrup. A layer of oak, freshly planed and well-seasoned, helps to restrain some of the sweetness while notes of pineapple pound cake and peach candies develop as things open up. That sweetness is also front and center on the palate with saccharine notes of caramel candies, sugary pralines, and some candied ginger. The oak doesn’t do much for it here as the barrel notes are largely submerged by a silky of wave of torched sugar and orange rock candy before the spicy, slightly drying finish. Ideal for those who enjoy a sweeter bourbon but lacking some of the complexity I’ve come to expect from Barrell. 111.2 proof. B+ / $89
Barrell Bourbon Batch 32 – This is another somewhat unique aroma for a Barrell batch, with grassy florals, soft, sweet oak, and a rich layer of brown butter. Most Barrell noses tend toward bolder, spicier bouquets, but there’s quite a bit of restraint here. On the palate, things are beautifully balanced with a rich, silky body and an easy, hugging warmth. Notes of buttery cinnamon toast and baked apples give way to dark berries and lemon zest. The finish is generous and mildly spiced with a bit of cocktail cherry and raspberry cordial. Full-flavored and impressively easy drinking at cask strength. One of my new favorites from Barrell. 115.3 proof. A / $89