Review: Hand Barrel Bourbon

Take a bottle shaped like a barrel and cover it in camouflage paint, then fill it with Kentucky bourbon. Boom, you’ve got Hand Barrel Bourbon, a limited edition product designed to celebrate American veterans, with a significant 10% of proceeds going to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation charity.

Proprietor Jim Hand provides ample production information about the 9120 bottles he produced of the whiskey, which is made from two mashbills: 80 percent is a 78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley whiskey from Bardstown Bourbon Co, and 20 percent is a 64% corn, 24% rye, 12% barley whiskey from another (unnamed) Kentucky distillery. BBCo bottled the spirit, no age statement.

Look, it’s tough to get past the suspicion that this is a complete gimmick designed to appeal to military types with the hand grenade-adjacent paint job. But put aside preconceptions and give it a whirl: Hand Barrel is the real deal, albeit a whiskey that is certainly on the youthful side.

The nose is a classic blend of popcorn and vanilla, nougat notes giving it a slight candylike character that eventually leads to hints of pecan, caramel, and lighter milk chocolate notes. Time in glass takes everything back to a hearty, roasted peanut character, reminding me of Beam products.

The palate holds few surprises, with a light dose of spice to perk up the otherwise enduring notes of peanut butter, brown butter, and vanilla. Light lacings of char are layered over the top, with gentle sesame and some light, dried herbal notes clinging to the back end. All very light on its feet, with its various elements dissipating quite quickly. Vanilla is what hangs on the longest, giving the whiskey an enduring sweetness that effectively tempers any of its more rustic and nutty qualities.

I won’t say that this is a complicated whiskey (nor an inexpensive one), but it is surprisingly drinkable and approachable, inviting repeated investigation — if you can find the bottle, amirite?

105 proof.


Hand Barrel Bourbon




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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