I just received two bottles of bourbon from Tennessee. Tennessee Bourbon you say? What is that? I thought all whiskey from Tennessee had a black label on it?
Well to be perfectly honest with you, so did I. I wasn't aware that there are Craft Spirits in Kentucky. I know that some are working on getting the laws changed to permit Craft distilling, but I'm really not sure who they are, or if they've been successful.
But without that tainting my impression of the Craft Spirits industry and who makes what and where, I'd like to introduce you to Barrell Bourbon.
Barrell Bourbon is a true luxury product that you can get.
Sitting in front of me are two bottles .
Batch #001 and Batch #002.
I'll try to be kind to you and your thirst. This isn't going to be easy.
Writing about and tasting fine liquid is like describing Grand Cru wine. Most people cannot even fathom spending hundreds of dollars on a bottle of wine, much less ever given the chance to taste it.
Although Barrell Bourbon is not inexpensive, it's not over 100 dollars per bottle either!
When a company sends me a bottle and it just isn't available to the public, all I can do it hope that it makes you thirsty. I do my best to guide you and help you find a bottle.
I actually had someone reach out to me the other day, who read my review on Pappy 20 Year, assuming that I had a secret in with the company to get a bottle (or more) of this highly allocated liquid.
But Barrell Bourbon is available. Extremely limited, but you can find it.
It's not even noon and I've just taken a healthy slurp of Barrel #001. This is Cask Strength my friends. Rolling in at 121.6 Proof, it is straight out of the barrel. They don't fine pad filter this whiskey. They only use a light mesh screen to keep the larger chunks from inside the barrel out of your glass. That's not to say that this bourbon is crystal clear, far from, there is stuff in there. I love spirits with a soul and Barrell Bourbon has it!
The bottle - no you don't taste the bottle, but bear with me... is made of fine perfume grade glass. It's gorgeous to the touch. Sumptuous and smooth. The cap is wood and real cork. A nice touch in the world of plastic almost everything. The label on each batch is very similar, with the only differences in the writing.
My bottle of Batch #001 reads Craft Distilled Barrel Stength.
Batch # 001, Bottle # 2384.
It goes on to read 121.6 Proof, 60.8 Alc/Vol.
Batch #002 reads Bottle # 429, 117.8 Proof, 58.9% Alc/Vol.
Batch #001 is made from a Mash bill of 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley. It's distilled in Tennessee and aged in Kentucky for five years in freshly charred American oak barrels. It's bottled at full barrel strength without any artificial colors or additives.
Flavors of Earl Grey Tea reveal themselves along with sweet vanilla, dark stone fruits, salted caramels and quince-slow cooked ones at that. The heat is ever present. You cannot escape it, even with a few drops of Branch Water sprinkled over the top to release the flavors and inner soul of this passionate product. The alcohol tingles on the tongue and wraps around your brain. This is serious stuff, worthy of your finest crystal glass. But don't put anything other than water into it. This would be a waste of fine liquor!
Peanut brittle expands across my tongue along with long cooked apricots and white raisins. Pine nuts reveal themselves, enrobed in dark chocolate. The finish is tannic and dry. It goes on and on. Impressive and worthy of your hard earned money.
Batch # 002 is also made from a Mash bill of: 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley. The first thing you perceive is the flavor of a grilled Reuben Sandwich on Rye bread. Toasted rye has a very specific flavor and this is no exception. There is a sharp cinnamon bitterness, almost like a red hot candy that pokes a hole right in the middle of your memory. This is exceptionably memorable bourbon. There really is nothing like it on the market. Stone fruits and caramelized nuts reveal themselves after a few seconds along with deep flavors of Spanish Saddle leather and wet stones. But not wet from a fresh water stream, they are slicked with the flavors of the ocean.
The slightly less alcohol *117.8- is a welcome relief after the hit of nearly 122% alcohol in Batch #001.
Both versions are memorable. Orange marmalade and lemon curd fill your mind along with toasted rye bread and slabs of freshly smoked meats. There are bursts of fleur de sel (sea salt) and more chocolate, but not the sweet kind, I'm talking 75% bitter.
Take little sips and bite your Reuben Sandwich, let me know what you think!
This is bourbon on steroids! Definitely not for everyone! No fooling!
Warren Bobrow,is the widely published author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.
His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 2014. Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.
Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies.
Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food. He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkupNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802. He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.
Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up. J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck. Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become.
Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.