Barrell Whiskey 18yr Single Barrel Pick: WhiskeyMentors ButterBall

This is Irene’s pick from Canterbury Liquors in CT and is the WhiskeyMentors QS01 ButterBall.  It is Barrell Whiskey Private Release barrel A123, age stated at 18yrs.  So what I learned from these recent releases is that only the single barrel picks are age stated at 18yrs; while the others are also 18yrs, apparently the new liquor rules about blending and finishing make it very difficult to keep the age statement on the bottle.  This one comes in at 117.6 proof, is not finished, just the pure single barrel.

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The interesting thing about this bottle is when I first cracked it, I was not a fan.  It was very hot and lacked complexity.  I sat it down and a week later it completely transformed.  I never publish reviews after trying something only once after a fresh crack; you always need to see the evolution once air hits.

I know why Irene named this ButterBall… it has a punch of Jif peanut butter right in the face.  Lots of nuttiness and there is a decent amount of heat, but that certainly has turned into a secondary feature.

Good mouthfeel, totally coats the mouth, focusing in the front.  You get that good nuttiness again and the tannins come through causing your mouth to water.  Secondary taste of Cow Tail candy, buttered toast, Skittles and Captain Crunch.  The finish is multiple minutes, and never goes bitter.

This is a good single barrel pick and it’s very hard to find something with an 18yr age statement.  Quite the unicorn!  I’m glad this one was put aside and not finished as it has a very unique profile.  96/100

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Barrell Whiskey 18yr finished in Sauternes Barrel

Sauternes…. mmmm… sweet Sauternes.  But I digress.  Today is the AH01 barrel pick from Barrell Craft Spirits, from their 18yr Kentucky whiskey line, this one finished in a Sauternes barrel.  It comes in at 123.94 proof.

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Entenmann’s original donut, honeysuckle, liquid caramel, Peanut M&M’s and fresh honey wheat bagels.  Very light heat from the nose.

Rich and chewy mouthfeel with big spices that I didn’t see on the nose.  Much bigger on the palate than the nose indicated.  Decent heat with an enjoyable hug and a finish that goes on for about two minutes and never goes bitter.

This is another really great barrel finished whiskey from Barrell.  95/100.

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https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey

Joe’s Playlist Track #1 Hungarian Fair: Tokaji Finished 18yr Whiskey

The review series continues and today is Barrell Whiskey Private Release, Joe’s Playlist Track #1 Hungarian Fair: 18yr Kentucky whiskey finished in a Tokaji Barrel.  This is another very cool finish that I’ve never had before.  I’m a huge fan of Tokaji, the original great dessert wine (even before Sauternes was popular).

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Again, beautiful bottle with the light blue lettering on top of the dark blue background.  I bought this one from Mash & Grape after seeing the playlist being promoted on Instagram.  By the time this is published I’m sure it will have been sold out unfortunately.

The nose is inviting with sweet notes of ripe apricots, butterscotch and Cinnamon Toast Crunch with mild hints of heat.  There are secondary notes of licorice, brioche and flaxseed flour.

Enjoyable mouthfeel focused on the back of the mouth to start then slowly works it was forward, a very interesting progression.  You get the nutty notes first, then fruit and sweetness second.  The second taste is better than the first.  The finish is longer than a minute.  What’s also interesting is the first day you open it, it’s a good pour, but after a week it evolves into a very good pour.

This is a really enjoyable pour and the barrel finish is very cool.  100% worth trying and adding to your collection.  95/100.

Joe’s Playlist #2: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2020/06/29/barrell-craft-spirits-joes-playlist-2-genesis-mg01/

Ratafia de Champagne Finish 18yr Barrell Whiskey: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2020/06/30/barrell-whiskey-private-release-ratafia-de-champagne-finish/

https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey

Barrell Whiskey Private Release: Ratafia de Champagne Finish

A continuing part of my Barrell Craft Spirits special release series of reviews, today is the Barrell Whiskey Private Release Kentucky Whiskey Finished in a Ratafia de Champagne Barrel.  This bottle is based on an 18yr old Kentucky whiskey (Bourbon mashbill but aged in used cooperage), and they finished it in something, I’ll be honest, that I did not know it existed. I have to google what Ratafia de Champagne was: a sweet liqueur based on Champagne grapes.  Sounds delicious!

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AH09 Blend clocks in at 122.42 proof, no aged stated, but we know it is predominantly a 18yr Kentucky Whiskey.  Beautiful bottle with smart blue label.

The nose is sweet with almond butter, Twizzlers, crushed graham crackers, dried cherries, Butterfinger.  There is heat on the nose, but only when you go deep in the glass.

Medium mouthfeel with overwhelming tastes of nuts: almonds, toasted chestnuts and peanut butter than morphs into dried fruit and red delicious apple skins.  The finish is about 90 seconds.

This is a really enjoyable whiskey and with a unique finish.  I bought two extra ones, one for my bunker and one for the cabinet as I do not think the open one will be lasting too long.  96/100.

I bought mine here, they may have a few left: https://www.mashandgrape.com/collections/barrell-craft-spirits?utm_source=barrellbourbon&utm_medium=barcart

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https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey

Barrell Craft Spirits: Joe’s Playlist #2 Genesis MG01

Barrell Craft Spirits has recently put out several very limited, very special releases.  Many of them are based on a 18yr Kentucky Whiskey, some single barrels, some barrel finishes.  In addition they released a tiny production via social media called “Joe’s Playlist.”  If you weren’t following them on Instagram, you might have missed it.  I think there might be a couple bottles left on Mash & Grape (link).  Today I will be reviewing the Joe’s Playlist #2: Genesis.

Even though I usually don’t give the review until the end,  I will say that I liked this one so much that I reached out to Barrell Bourbon directly to ask them more about this specific barrel.  It was unique and so good, and only 4yrs old, so I needed to understand how it was possible for it to be this delicious.  Joe said “these are amazing barrels that I bought three years ago.  They have been aged in Indiana, New York, Tennessee and Kentucky.  they are among my favorites and are a part of our company history.”  Four years old, aged in four states, maybe all the moving around helped expedite the aging?  I don’t know… on to the review:

Nice amber color, in the beautiful iconic Barrell bottle, their rye label is green and has the Playlist label on top “Genesis Track #2”.  Barrel number MG01 (clearly a reference to MGP), age stated 4yrs, 119.56 proof, straight rye whiskey and distilled in Indiana.

Cinnamon stick, rock candy and eucalyptus on the nose, very strong aroma but very little heat. Never would have guessed the age based on nose.  Secondary notes of dried orange peel, nutmeg and spearmint.

Epic mouthfeel, totally coats everything and the rock candy, spearmint and spices come through strong. There is a decent hug, more than the nose indicates but very enjoyable. The finish goes on for multiple minutes. The spice lingers for so long and not once does it fade to bitter. What gets me is how thick the mouthfeel is and how enjoyable. This is special.

The only downside to this is that it’s a single barrel and will never be duplicated. It’s an insanely good pour and rivals the best Thomas H Handy I’ve had and certainly beats last year’s.  I was told that this is the barrel that inspired Joe’s Playlist and I know why. If there is a MG02 of MG03 I know that I will be in line to get it!  I bought this bottle myself and I’m glad I bought two of them! 98/100

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Newbourbondrinker’s Top 5 Whiskies of 2019!

Here are my top 5 whiskies/bourbons of 2019!  This year I decided to do a little something different… Instead of ranking them by my previous scores, I decided to do a little blind tasting of them… here are the contenders, with links to the reviews:

So I had my wife pour these 5 into Glencairn glasses, and to mix it up a little bit, we also put in four others just as decoys: an OWA SB NCF store pick, a Buffalo Trace SB store pick, Barrell Bourbon batch 022 and OGD 114.  Instead of giving you the play by play, here is how they all ended up:

  1. BCS 2019
  2. Cowboy 2019
  3. Barrell Bourbon Batch 022
  4. GTS 2019
  5. OWA SB NCF
  6. Cornerstone Rye
  7. Buffalo Trace SB
  8. Wiser’s 23yr
  9. OGD 114

The Top 4 were close together, but BCS took the title, while the bottom four were a bit back.  Nice to see one of the “decoys” make it into the top 5 and beat 3 of the other contenders.  The value pick clearly is BB022, edging out GTS and being much cheaper… and everyone knows that if you can snag a great store pick OWA SB NCF, that’s always worth snagging as many as you can–unfortunately those are harder and harder to get at MSRP, but even at double, still worth it for the right pick.

I’m so sorry it took so long to put out this blog, but first quarter has been a little crazy, and now that we are all working from home, I have a little more time to catch up with older posts that were partially written and actually follow through with this blind tasting!

“No I can’t get you Pappy at MSRP” or another way to show you the top 5 bottles under $100 for 2019

I’m sure every avid Bourbon hunter/collector/drinker gets the same questions I do: “hey man, can you get me the hookup on some Pappy?”  Of course I can, $450 for a Pappy 10yr… “whattttt?”…. I don’t get it at MSRP, I don’t own a store, but I know people who will sell it for secondary (which seems to be 400-500 depending on where you are, if you can get it for less, great, but don’t pay more)… But then people think they can get it for MSRP, good luck with that unless you have a serious hookup, that I certainly don’t have either… After calling a bunch of stores and asking other people, the realization settles in, they ask, well, what can I get for under $100 that is really good too? Every year my list changes, but this year I am recommending these bottles to get, either as value drinks for yourself, or to recommend to your friends for drinkers… I know there will be a lot of disagreement, and I would love to hear your recommendations:

  • Mellow Corn (~$12)… great for cocktails
  • Buffalo Trace (~$25)… hard to beat for the price
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Single Barrels  (~$35)… great single barrel value
  • Russel’s Reserve 10yr Single Barrels (~$45)… all around solid choice
  • Barrell Craft Spirits Dovetail (~$75)… great sipper, cask strength, finished whiskey

Honorable Mention: ECBP, OWA 107, ETL, Blantons…. but they have been harder to find these days and often trade above $100 in secondary…

What do you think I should have on this list?  Comments welcome!

Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 + Beast Masters Club Event

Last night I went to the BeastMaster’s Club holiday event where they poured all their single barrels from the year (well I started this write-up a few months ago… but actually this was almost two months since the event).  As a special surprise, Will Schragis and his sales team from Barrell Bourbon, was pouring 12 different bottles of Barrell Craft Spirits products, including a super small Irish Whisky release, very cool!  I really enjoyed trying each of the Beast Masters Club single barrels, especially the Smoke Wagon MPG juice.  But the clear winner of the night wasn’t even close… it happened to be the one I liked the most that evening, but it was also the one that got drained halfway through the night.  You usually know when something is good when it’s almost empty, when other bottles around it are 1/2 to 3/4 full…  I ended up buying a bottle this morning so I could write up a review…

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Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 is a blend of Kentucky and Indiana straight Bourbon whiskey, coming in at 116.6 proof and is age stated at five years.  Don’t let the 5yr fool you though, I have it on good authority that although the youngest Bourbon is 5yrs, the majority of the juice is in the ten to twelve year area… few producers would risk mixing a 11yr or 12yr Bourbon with a 5yr because if you put “12yr Indiana from a undisclosed distillery located in Lawrenceburg” you are guaranteed to sell it for at least $100… what kind of person would take that and add younger juice in it?  The only person who would do that is someone who knows it will be better and cares more about the final product than making a quick buck… well, lets go to the tasting and see if that holds up.

The color alone tells you there is no way this is just 5yrs, my guess is the average is like 8-9, with that dark golden amber… The nose is insane, rock candy, candy corn from Halloween, freshly baked corn bread out of a cast iron pan, marzipan, butterscotch syrup and Teddy Grahams.  So little heat on the nose.  Dive right in.

Perfectly balanced on the way in, really good mouthfeel… good oils, if there was one thing I’d like more of is I’d like a little more oilyness on it… The Kentucky hug shows up and builds on the candy nose.  This is such a crowd-pleaser up front, but then the complexity and finish on the back end lets you know this is a contender for a Whiskey of the year.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a huge fan of Barrell Bourbon.  Very few people put out both epic single barrels, but also amazing blends.  It’s a skill that few producers have both of, and they nail it.  This might be my favorite batch since Batch 011.  As soon as I tried this again I put my order in for another case to bunker.  This one is going to be a huge winner.  And for those people out there who like Barrell but aren’t fans of Dickel, well, this is only IN/KY, be sure to grab a case or two… 97/100.

Post Script: I know Batch 021 won San Francisco best Bourbon of the year, but I prefer batch 022… super underrated!  If you can’t find 21, grab a few 22s!

Barrell Craft Spirits: BCS 2019 15yr Bourbon Gray Label Release: Best Whiskey of 2019???

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label in black box, 15yr Bourbon 2019 release is the follow up to last year’s special release. 2018’s Bourbon won Fred Minnick’s best whiskey of the year in a blind taste, making it very hard for Trip and Joe @ Barrell Bourbon to come up with a worth successor to their, arguably, best release to date.  The year is a blend of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee and age stated 15yrs (which means there probably is stuff much older in here as well)… On to the review…

Beautiful nose, Milk Duds, cotton candy, and Rolos in the front, all candy and deliciousness. Deeper dive brings out notes of graham cracker s’mores, fresh luxury car seat leather and cracked roasted peanuts. At 106.52 proof you don’t even get a hint of heat even if you stick your nose all the way deep in the glass—almost unheard of.

Perfect balance of oils and tannins and flavor and just enough hug to let you know this is a Bourbon. The mouthfeel perfect coats the entire tongue and the upper sides of the cheeks. The candy and nut flavors rush in and build over time. I’m amazed by the finish here, more than three minutes and never dries off in a bitter note. (The finish might actually be closer to five minutes)

I think this might be the best whiskey I’ve tried this year; it certainly has impressed me more than any of the BTAC line… I didn’t know what to expect after last year. Last year was insane and had so much hype. How could they possibly follow up after that one? Well… they did and I think they even eclipsed it. This Bourbon is phenomenal. MSRP is $250, I’m seeing it on secondary for 300-350… do whatever you can to grab more than one bottle as you will want at least a backup here. 99/100.

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HazMat Release from Barrell Craft Spirits!! 13yr Canadian Rye. Unicorn Alert!!

Unicorn alert… Single Barrel from Barrell Craft Spirits… 13yr Rye… Barrel L943, bottle #100… this clocks in at a HazMat 145.2 proof.  When I saw this, I grabbed a few… don’t think I’ll ever come across a Barrell HazMat again and I strongly regret not getting enough of the ECBP 140.2 proof back when I could…

Nose… the moment you pop the cork the nose jumps out at you–before even pouring the glass.  You can tell this is Canadian… maple syrup and vanilla rock candy permeates the room.  With the whiskey is the glass I’m also getting Necco wafers, heavy cream, butterscotch and gingerbread houses.  The crazy part is, I’m not getting much burn here on the nose, and this is HazMat!

The mouthfeel is great, completely oily covering the whole mouth.  There is decent heat and you can tell it’s not bottled in bond, but it’s enjoyable and balanced.  There is a strong tannin structure that goes right through the center and the finish builds up momentum with more and more flavor coming through.  This is a two to three minute finish.

In one way this is very different than any of the other Barrell releases I’ve had before… but it’s also consistent with quality and nuance and putting out really good whiskies, straight from the barrel.  If you can find this on the shelf, do not hesitate to grab it (or two or three!).  Finding HazMat whiskies that are good are extremely hard to find, and this is one of them.  Will be something that probably just goes up in value due to scarcity, but if you find them, grab two, so you can still open one.  I will probably open another one once this is gone… It’s worth it!  96/100.