By Father John Rayls
Barrell Craft Spirits is a non-distiller producer that offers cask-strength expressions of American whiskeys. Rather than focusing on quality and consistency, BCS has chosen an unusual approach of emphasizing quality and uniqueness with every batch being different and all at cask strength. This obviously creates a “limited” release each time – when it’s gone, it’s gone. Barrels are sourced from around the country due to BCS having developed effective relationships within the bourbon community. They are then shipped to Barrell’s facilities in Kentucky for additional aging and bottling. In an interesting twist, Barrell Craft Spirits appears to be dedicated to complete openness and honesty concerning their sourcing. Unfortunately, many of the suppliers insist on anonymity. Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits, produced his first bottle of Barrell Bourbon in 2014 to rave reviews. The accolades have continued to pour in relentlessly (pun intended!). He has found a sweet spot in the market and his offerings are in big demand. Beatrice is now extensively expanding operations in Louisville, Kentucky and developing his own distilling, barreling and aging facilities.
My bottle number of 2756 was from batch 013 which was bottled at 113 proof after aging 5 years. (The bourbon was a mix distilled in both Indiana and Tennessee). The look was copper tinted with light brown color mixed equally. As the sun reflected through the bourbon, there were flashes of polished brass highlights. The legs in the glass were very thin and runny. In addition, this was coupled with a beading ring around the glass with droplets held in suspension. The nose was a light to medium presence with oak and caramel. There wasn’t any alcohol burn, but there was a noticeable tingling when inhaling deeply.
The taste profile comes across as mild and the consumer gets a fairly short tasting experience. There is a slightly creamy mouthfeel with oak and caramel on top of light cinnamon. The action takes place at mid-mouth stimulating both upper and lower sections. There is also some light heat in the background. However, the finish kicks in with an announcement of authority. The initial taste almost lulls you to sleep, but it sets you up for the dramatic finish as it jumps in pretty quickly. It’s a long experience and spreads to involve the entire mouth out to the lips and down the back of the throat while elevating its game at mid-mouth. The oak and caramel continue but the cinnamon transitions to pepper and eventually to white pepper as the heat continues to build. It is never overwhelming but is definitely an attention grabber and makes the overall tasting experience quite pleasant.
Barrell Bourbon (Batch 013) Cask Strength is one more perfect example demonstrating that sourced whiskey can be very good when handled correctly. This is an interesting sipping bourbon. However, I believe it would also make an excellent mixer for drinks even for those of us who hate making cocktails. It’s good enough to make me want to reconsider being a mixologist. The suggested retail is $79.99.