Broadly speaking, finished whiskey is a bit of a mixed bag. A good, tasteful finish can bestow incredible flavors contributing to an elevated drinking experience; a sloppy or otherwise half-hearted finish can leave one confused at best and put off at worst. With Barrell Craft Spirits’ popular finished bottlings, it’s easy to read the specs and be both wary and excited. Much attention has been given to last year’s Seagrass (which we’ll get to in a future post), but a couple expressions preceded it, including the subject of today’s review: Dovetail.
Considering the components consist of whiskey sourced from Tennessee and Indiana (likely Dickel and MGP, respectively) finished in Dunn Vineyards Cabernet barrels, black strap rum casks, and LBV Port pipes, it’s no wonder Dovetail “took almost a year to get right.” Additionally, Barrell mention toasted French oak as among the flavors they seek to highlight through Dovetail. How do Dovetail’s components combine and behave?
I was able to try this thanks to a generous, fellow whiskey lover generously sending some samples.
Nose: Berries followed by big rum essence. Molasses and compote or jam, like a blackberry spread or syrup. I’m imagining pancakes with a whole jar of blackberry syrup dumped on top. Really dense and rich. Raisin-like layer with an undercurrent of caramel and vanilla playing nicely with the fruity notes. Maybe a hint of cinnamon over time. Opens up beautifully with time and sipping—my favorite part of the experience.
Palate: Big, warm molasses. Somewhat tannic on the back. Red wine meets rum essence followed by brief whiskey-like caramel before the molasses takes back over. More fresh fruit with each sip; prune, raspberry, and blackberry. Just a touch hot, but reasonable for over 120 proof. Eventually get a bit of minerality, but it pairs surprisingly well with the molasses-forward nature.
Finish: Even more molasses with prune and maybe some dates. Trickles into a lighter brown sugar over time. Viscosity initially lingers more than the actual flavors, but they catch up. Warm, dark fruit flavors come out nicely, complete with caramel and slowly emerging dark peach syrup.
In case you can’t tell, I get a ton of influence from the rum casks. It’s to the point that if served blind, I’d likely peg this as a rum instead of a whiskey just based on the nose. Palate-wise the whiskey takes more precedence, barely keeping that molasses character in-check. Time does this pour a ton of favors, particularly when it comes to the nose and finish. Smelling the glass after sipping always brought a little more to the table; the layering of aromas is simply uncanny. The finish, though not quite as impressive, develops beautifully over time with each sip, be it in length, strength, or complexity. These two aspects are so elevated that the palate comes up short by comparison, mostly due to the less impressive upfront flavors. Otherwise, there’s a lot to unpack here, to the point that evaluating Dovetail based on a 2 ounce sample seems unfair.
Does this mean Dovetail will find a spot in my collection? Maybe not immediately, but I can definitely see myself splurging on a bottle. My main reservations are pricing and, again, that molasses-forward personality. Yet that same personality could get me more interested in rum, since Dovetail feels easier for my whiskey-leaning palate to dissect. All in all, Barrell have an intriguing product on their hands with Dovetail, which will be fantastic for the right audience.