These days it’s odd to not see Barrell Craft Spirits get brought up when discussing the art of blending. Some might even say they paved the way for taking certain NDPs seriously. Given the acclaim they’ve received, be it for bourbon batches or their unique, finished products, it’s safe to say they’ve left a mark on the industry and will likely continue to do so.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 025 was my first exposure to the brand, and this review for Batch 026 will effectively continue where that review left off. As with other Barrell Bourbons, Batch 026 is comprised of a combination of straight bourbons from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, with the minimum for this batch coming in at 9 years. Let’s see how it fares:
Nose: Super sweet with a wonderful vanilla/caramel balance, somewhere between candy and dessert-like. Warm brown sugar with some gentle touches of light fruit. Apricot, orange candy, and brief hints of banana. A bit of pleasant oak must in the background, along with cocoa and an occasional whisper of nut.
Palate: Tobacco upfront followed by mellow orange and traces of minerality. Dried cherry and burnt orange peel with plenty of charred oak to go around. Feel like this could pair well with a cigar. Some cocoa is consistently present, coming into its own over time and paving the way for the finish.
Finish: Chewy like peanut butter. Mellow, pleasant drying sensation with cocoa, coffee, oak, nuts, and tobacco.
This is a considerably different beast than Batch 025, which I described as feeling rye-forward more than anything. Batch 026 is unmistakably bourbon with plenty of age to go around. This is abundantly clear from the wonderfully inviting nose alone. I could spend a good chunk of my day simply smelling this stuff; it’s definitely one of those “I don’t need to drink it to be happy” pours. Then we get to the palate and things take a bit of a turn as the likely inclusion of Dickel makes its presence known. If I were to describe the sensation as it appears in Batch 026 to someone who hasn’t had Dickel, I’d say it’s like getting mellow, lightly drying oak notes with some cocoa powder coming between the sweeter notes alluded to on the nose.
I’m a sucker for sweet bourbons, especially when they have depth and a good amount of oak that doesn’t quite overwhelm the palate. However, many well-aged bourbons suffer from tasting overly dry and tannic, such that it’s hard to discern the sweeter, more enjoyable flavors. Barrell Bourbon Batch 026 feels similar to the latter group, but exhibits slightly different shortcomings that are, thankfully, less detrimental and more peculiar. I’d say it’s less an issue of dry, tannic notes and more an issue of following through on the sweetness from the nose. It’s like smelling standard brownies when you come home from work, but when you bite in you realize your significant other used 78% chocolate instead of the usual 60% you prefer. They’re still brownies and therefore still delicious, they’re just not quite what you were hoping for.