One whiskey release from 2021 that requires next to no introduction is Barrell Seagrass. The storm of talk and acclaim following its release was prompt, and Barrell are still riding that high with the recently released 16-Year Seagrass, which will soon be followed by a 20-Year version. Most folks won’t get to try either of those more premium bottlings, however, which leaves us with the standard Seagrass. And that may be perfectly fine.
Today I’ll be wrapping up my batch of reviews for Barrell’s finished whiskeys. If Dovetail was the cherry-popper for Barrell’s wild concoctions, then Armida was like a rollercoaster with a fake-out drop. For the sake of formality, let’s disclose the details: Seagrass is made from a combination of American and Canadian rye whiskies separately finished in Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy barrels. It’s intended as “an ode to coastal memories, blended to evoke the joy of a day on the beach and an evening listening to the soothing rhythm of waves.” Just like that, I want a vacation. As with Dovetail and Armida, I was provided a sample of Seagrass from a fellow whiskey fan.
Nose: Light and fruity; a touch closed off. Apricot and honey with a splash of white grape juice. Hints of vanilla and wood barely creep through the sweet (but not sickly) exterior. Sweet floral essence with a faint touch of cinnamon sugar and licorice. Begins to manifest like fruity pancake syrup after a while.
Palate: Proofy tropical cocktail. Apricot and sweet lime. A touch savory on the back. Impressions of mango and pineapple upfront quickly followed by a bit of brown sugar and minerality/effervescence. Cantaloupe and lemon cake.
Finish: Melon residuals and tart lemon precede a mild spice that consistently creeps up with each sip. Maybe a bit of peppery dust with subsequent sips, gradually adding more of a traditional rye spice quality, along with a wisp of drying oak.
Of Barrell’s core finished whiskeys, Seagrass is easily the lightest and most subtle. It honestly feels bizarre coming off the heels of Dovetail and Armida, to the point that I’d almost call it flat. Perhaps all the talk and acclaim prompted me to set my expectations too high. To be crystal-clear, Seagrass is nothing if not enjoyable, as reflected in the immediate “tropical cocktail” note. As far as captivation goes, however, this sample comes up short in my book. The composition is certainly interesting, but it didn’t translate to my overall experience.
Coming to my thoughts on Seagrass feels like clumsily dancing on thinning ice. I want to like it more than I do; it’s new, available, unique, and highly acclaimed. How many other whiskey bottles check those boxes these days? Ironically, I suspect one reason Seagrass didn’t impress me is synonymous with why I’d still call it a quality product: balance. Put another way, my palate didn’t feel as assaulted by the finishes when compared to its siblings. This is great news for the right consumer (of which there are verifiably many). I’d surmise that much of the core whisky blend is from Canada, since it reminds me of Whistlepig more than it does say, Nashville Barrel Company. And although I generally grade Whistlepig generously, that’s been more out of appreciation than outright enjoyment. I would say the same of Seagrass.