I was at a whiskey tasting a couple weeks ago at the Harrison Wine Vault in Harrison, NY which was a charity event for the local pet shelter. I convinced my wife to go with me because I said there would be lots of puppies with which our 1yr old would love to play. There were a couple puppies, but my main purpose was to secure a designated driver for a whiskey tasting… I was sneaky, yet successful. There were many new craft producers and only a few producers that I had tried before and liked. I would say that 50% of the whiskeys to try were from a random new craft producer, trying to sell a product between six months and two years of age. All of the new craft products were literally horrible. Trying to push a nine month rye as a $60 bottle is just embarrassing–I don’t foresee many of them still in business in a couple years… I was lucky Garrison Brothers was there (link from old review: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/garrison-brothers-texas-straight-bourbon-whiskey-another-great-drink/), Four Roses and Barrell Bourbon. I knew I liked Batch 006 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/barrell-bourbon-batch-006-home-run-top-5-of-the-year/), but they also were serving Batch 007 (very very good, but not yet on the market and I haven’t given it a proper tasting), and their new whiskey product, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, which is a Sherry cask finish. For those who follow this blog, you know my rants about finishing, so I was clearly skeptical about this product as well. However, when I tried it, my concerns immediately melted away. I was lucky to secure a bottle and my review is based on bottle number 1096.
Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 is a nine and a half year whiskey that has been finished in Sherry butts from Spain. Like everything from Barrell Craft Spirits, this is bottled at cask strength: this particular batch is 61.9% abv. I looked online, and I have confirmed that this is both the oldest whiskey that they have sold and their first cask finished product. Like I said, I am extremely skeptical about finished whiskeys as I feel like most producers just mix in low quality dessert wines and pretend they have created something great–most fail at this (see my review of a failed “finished” whiskey from High West: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/high-wests-tragic-whiskey-a-midwinter-nights-dram/comment-page-1/). Not only was I surprised by BW002, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this whiskey.
The color is honey suckle brown, for almost a 10yr whiskey, you can tell this has been aged in used barrels instead of the new barrels that bourbon is aged in.
The nose has hints of sherry, unlike most finished whiskeys which overpower the nose with the dessert wine that it is mixed with. In addition to the sherry, notes of graham cracker, honeysuckle, Halloween Candy Corn, baked pumpkin seeds and butterscotch ice cream. What is also surprising is the complete lack of heat on the nose–not something you would expect for a 120+ proof whiskey. Perhaps that is due to the near 10yrs of age?
The palate is a delight. The perfect integration of the sherry residue from the cask and the 9.5yr whiskey is so enjoyable on the tongue. Every note from the nose is coming through even stronger on the palate, but the better part is the mouthfeel. The intense thickness of oil and grit just creates a finish that goes on and on. By such a large margin, this is the best cask finished whiskey I have ever had, but it also is one of the best whiskeys I have ever had as well. The complexity of this whiskey has so many layers and the taste goes on for several minutes. What is also amazing is how little heat comes through–for a cask strength product you often get an overwhelming amount of heat but this whiskey has just enough to know it is there, like a cashmere blanket next to a wood burning stove.
I checked into this batch and it turns out that only 200 cases (1200 bottles) were produced. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask Finish 2016 had 3,000 bottles produced and I think this is even better than that. I know that hoarders get a bad name, but I am not embarrassed to say that if I see any of these bottles left at any store, I will be buying them and drinking them for years to come. I also hope that Barrell Craft Spirits comes out with another Sherry Cask batch because if this is just a one off project, the whiskey community will be at a deep loss. So PLEASE: Barrell Craft Spirts, PLEASE continuing making a Sherry Finished product, you will have a customer for life in me. If any of my readers are able to secure a bottle of this, just close your eyes and buy it: I guarantee you will not be disappointed. 97/100.