Review: Barrell Private Releases, 2023
Single barrel selections continue to be some of the more sought-after offerings in American whiskey, and while Barrell Whiskey does occasionally offer the traditional single barrel from their impressive whiskey stocks via various retailers, fans can also enjoy an equally limited bottle of what Barrell does best. Dubbed Private Release, Barrell’s approach to these custom single barrels mirrors their elaborate, large volume batches and specialty blends but in miniature. I’ll let Barrell explain:
The Private Release Series lets us exercise our blending expertise while maintaining a single barrel-like scale controlled entirely by hand and by palate. Our goal is always to maximize the best attributes of each component. Every ounce of every ingredient changes the overall character of these blends, as does the barrel that each one is aged in. For that reason, these barrels take months to polish and perfect. While we may be able to replicate the recipe for these releases, the unique nature of each ingredient and the barrel they are married in makes every bottling singularly special. Each release of our Private Release Whiskey is a unique blend of whiskeys. Once created, these blends are married in single casks, many of which were previously used for other spirits and/or wines. Each Private Release Whiskey series has slightly different base whiskey and is entered into a finishing cask at a different time.
We received samples of three very different Private Release offerings. Thoughts follow.
Barrell Private Release Bourbon GXA1 – This one is essentially a custom Barrell batch with bourbons sourced from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee and comprising a wide age range of 5-14 years (75% being 5-year-old stock, only 5% being 14-year-old). The nose is one of the drier I’ve encountered from Barrell. Soft, chalky chocolate notes dominate, transitioning from cocoa powder to light chocolate mousse with time in the glass. The palate is lush, far more so than the aroma suggests, and showcases a classic bourbon profile with notes of chewy caramel, toffee, creamed corn, and orange candies. The sweetness builds into the finish, along with a generous, hugging warmth. The conclusion, although a bit thin, lingers with candy apple and cherry cordial. That top dressing of older stocks has added quite a bit to this predominantly younger bourbon. 119.94 proof. B+ / $110
Barrell Private Release Whiskey DJA2 – A blend of whiskey sourced from Indiana and Kentucky and finished in a St. Agrestis amaro cask from the Brooklyn-based spirits producer. The amaro has certainly influenced the aroma with an initial wave of herbal, minty high tones that really stand apart from the softer baking spice and butterscotch of the bourbon. With time in the glass, those disparate aromas find somewhat better harmony with the addition of dried orange peel, red licorice, and caramel. The palate is, I suppose unsurprisingly, something of a cocktail unto itself. Bold, peppery notes of clove, ginger, and allspice are layered atop oily citrus peel and sandalwood. The bourbon base is overpowered by the finishing, managing to eke out a vanilla and oak foundation but not much else. The finish is a bit hot with lingering, slightly bitter spearmint and licorice. All the makings of an overpowered Boulevardier in a bottle. 123.22 proof. B+ / $110
Barrell Private Release Whiskey DJX2 – A blend of whiskey sourced from Indiana and Kentucky and finished in a Ruby Port barrel. Surprisingly soft on the nose at this proof with a well-balanced blend of dark raisin, chocolate frosting, and subtle clove chewing gum. It’s light but still manages to showcase an impressive depth. On the palate, things are a bit more dynamic with initial spicy, sweet notes of caramel corn and cherry cordial. A flash of warmth at the outset levels off but lingers across the sip, propelling rich notes of butterscotch, torched sugar, and strawberry candies into a lingering, warming finish of chocolate-covered cherry, candied orange peel, and mint syrup. Balanced and full-flavored and downright delicious. 123.9 proof. A / $110
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