In 2019, one of our favorite vodka producers, Infuse Spirits, branched into whiskey. The results were, well, not the best, and eventually the line was scrapped and rebranded, with no mention of Infuse on the label at all. Recently, a revamped Broken Barrel re-emerged on the scene and, given our rather tough assessment of its original releases, we were surprised to see nearly the entire lineup of the new whiskeys arrive on our doorstep — seven bottlings out of a total of nine currently in production. The whiskeys are older now — all billed as various types of straight whiskeys, though there are still no age statements — but (almost) are still made at Green River (formerly known as O.Z. Tyler). “Our whiskey matured along with the distillery,” says CEO Seth Benhaim.
Broken Barrel’s lineup includes four core releases, two “reserve oak” bottlings, and three limited editions — and probably more to come. Everything is finished in one way or another — the “broken barrel” idea is that barrel staves are used for finishing rather than placing the whiskey itself in finishing casks — and proof varies pretty widely.
Has three years turned a page for Infuse and Broken Barrel? Let’s find out. Here’s a look at (most of) the 2022 Broken Barrel lineup.
Broken Barrel Bourbon California Oak – 70% corn, 21% rye, 9% barley; finished with 80% cabernet sauvignon wine cask and 20% new French oak staves. This is a soft, youthful, and quite light spirit, notes of peanut butter and a mild baking spice element kicking off the show. Buttery vanilla gives the nose a certain pastry character. The palate is also doughy but light, peanut notes fading into brewed tea, nougat, and a dusting of cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper. Easygoing and approachable, but there’s no hint of red wine here. 88 proof. B / $31
Broken Barrel Bourbon Small Batch – 70% corn, 21% rye, 9% barley; finished with 40% bourbon barrels (which is odd), 40% new French oak, and 20% sherry cask staves. The more aggressive, hotter nose is agreeable, lightly spicy with notes of baking spice, ample red pepper, and a slug of vanilla. Chocolatey on the palate, with a traditional composition of caramel corn, peanut shells, and a clove-heavy spice, this presents like a straightforward and simple bourbon, with no trace of the sherry stave influence. 95 proof. B / $31
Broken Barrel Heresy Rye – 95% rye, 5% barley; finished with 40% bourbon barrels, 40% new French oak, and 20% sherry cask staves. Our first “repeat” of the old Infuse line; this has the same mashbill and name as the older product. It’s frankly a step down from the two bourbons, with a light acetone aroma that is muted by an aggressive sweetness. It’s also a bit beefy on the nose, though again tempered thanks to some spearmint notes in the mix. The palate’s sweetness feels a bit otherworldly, a ton of menthol giving the whiskey a quality that blends Doublemint gum with Vick’s VapoRub. Hot, with lingering petrol on the finish. 105 proof. C+ / $34
Broken Barrel Bourbon Cask Strength – 70% corn, 21% rye, 9% barley; finished with 40% bourbon barrels, 40% new French oak, and 20% sherry cask staves. This is a higher-proof version of the Small Batch Bourbon reviewed above. Familiar aromas, though a stronger barrel char influence and some chocolate are both evident. The extra heat helps out the palate a bit, adding a racy quality to an otherwise peanut-popcorn heavy experience, folding in layers of cinnamon and red pepper. It’s all very expected, much like the Small Batch itself, but the higher abv keeps it from wandering off message. 115 proof. B+ / $44
Broken Barrel Plank Walker American Whiskey 7 Years Old – 85% corn, 15% rye; finished with 80% Barbadian rum cask and 20% French oak staves. This is at least something interesting, one of the few whiskeys in the BB lineup with an age statement — and a single barrel release, at that. Distilled in Indiana, not at Green River. A vastly different whiskey than what’s come before — there’s a light whiskey character here, perhaps — with a bold caramel corn attack on the nose, backed up by enduring granary notes and a moderately powerful barrel char character. Maple and butterscotch lead the way on the thick, cereal-driven palate — this is nearly 60% abv — with brown sugar and honey notes impossible to shake as it builds, even with water. Red pepper on the finish, with more caramel. Keep adding more water. 115.6 proof. B / $55
Broken Barrel Rare Americana American Whiskey 7 Years Old – 85% corn, 15% rye; finished with 75% Sauternes cask and 25% French oak staves. Same stock as above, with an unusual finish. Surprising depth of color here. Notes of coffee and dark chocolate are intense on the nose, with oxidized, almost Port-like notes making me wonder if I’m really drinking the right whiskey or if somehow this was mislabeled. Very hot on the palate, we’re at 60% abv here. Again, lots of coffee, cocoa powder, and a mix of red and black pepper. Some charcoal notes on the finish are aggressive, but tempered by a touch of lemony, honeyed sweetness — the only real sign of the Sauternes influence in the mix. Definitely one of the more interesting whiskeys in the lineup, though not at all what I was expecting. 120 proof. B+ / $70
Broken Barrel The Wreckoner Wheat Whiskey 3 Years Old – 85% wheat, 15% barley; finished with 80% Cognac cask and 20% French oak staves. Cognac-finished wheat whiskey, you say? At 60% abv? Another bruiser of a whiskey, this punches at the nostrils with its notes of peppery barrel char and ground coffee, though there’s some tempering sweetness here to keep things leveled out, at least a bit. The palate is a scorcher and ample with char; I couldn’t possibly peg this as either wheat whiskey or Cognac-finished, though a good slug of water helps on both fronts. With water, the whiskey shows itself as a bit grainy and chalky, but laced with notes of stone fruits and cherries; it’s really the only way to consume this spirit. The finish nonetheless remains hot and punchy, some light brown sugar offering a respite from raw alcohol. It’s a curious bottling, but I’d bottle this at a much lower abv to allow some of the more delicate characteristics come into focus. 120 proof. B / $90