Barrell Bourbon isn’t a distillery. They’re a bottler that purchases barrels from distilleries selling barrels. Because Barrell Bourbon gets to sample the barrels they purchase, and distilleries often sell barrels that don’t meet with their standard taste profile (which doesn’t make them bad, just not right for that distillery), this gives Barrell Bourbon the freedom to release interesting flavor profiles.
I don’t get to sample a lot of Barrell Bourbon living in Canada, so I’m always grateful to Peter for bringing me samples. Peter occasionally travels to Toronto on work. We usually drink and share stories, but between Peter’s flight arriving late and my kids being a handful that day, we only had enough time to pass samples.
I didn’t know what I was drinking when I opened the two sample bottles of Barrell Bourbon 15 Year Olds. They weren’t labeled. Peter had intended for us to share them. I knew what I was drinking, though, was on par with some of the best bourbon in the world. Not only that, it was some of the best whisky I've ever tasted. I started to text Peter desperate to find out what I was drinking.
When he told me both samples were the famous Barrell Bourbon 15 Year Old that Fred Minnick picked as the best American Whisky of 2018, I wasn’t surprised. It just barely beat out William LaRue Weller in Fred’s tasting. Fred summarized Barrell Boubon’s win best:
My 2018 Best American Whiskey went to Glass No. 10, Barrell Bourbon 15-year-old, a blend of straight bourbons from Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky. This is a stunning upset, as Barrell, a small company, is a blender and not a distiller. They acquire barrels from other distilleries and blended them to create my American Whiskey of the Year. Furthermore, they defeated American whiskey juggernauts to take this.
It blew me away. I’m a Barrell Bourbon convert. Now, I just need to find a way to get bottles delivered in Ontario.
Barrell Bourbon 15 Year Old Cask Strength Bottle #138
Category: Blend of straight bourbons, Cask Strength
Nose: Nutty, sweet, spicy, grainy, dusty, and freshly squeezed orange zest. Beautiful caramel and blood orange zest notes, with complex herby (5 spice), and touches of dark chocolate.
Palate: It immediately heats the cheeks with boozy hotness, or maybe I have a crush? Damn this is terrific. The palate is buttery smooth, hot from alcohol, and has a beautiful herby spice nature. The nutty component (usually comes from malted barley) is terrific, and unlike some bourbons, it’s complimented with rich caramels and heavy spice.
Conclusion: Barrell Bourbon 15 Years Old is a combination of straight bourbons from three states, blended with the intention for making the best whisky possible. There are so few bourbons and ryes that reach this level. The easiest that come to mind are the BTAC releases, because along with nuanced flavors, BTAC succeeds with an explosive high proof profile. Booker’s 13 Year Old Rye did something similar and it was clearly inspired by BTAC in flavors. Barrell Bourbon 15 Year Old is different, though. It doesn’t taste like a BTAC release, and it doesn’t care to meet a specific flavor profile—it’s simply an incredible pour of whisky. Thanks for sharing Peter!