“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” a maxim that neatly “sums up” Louisville-based Barrell Craft Spirits’ blending philosophy. They’ve built their reputation on creatively blending globally sourced spirits – bourbons, ryes, and rums – with skill and intention. And given that each new batch is an experiment, it’s natural to assume that some may work out better than others.
Over the past several years, I’ve been fortunate to sample and enjoy several of the brand’s offerings and recently had an opportunity to sample the newly released Barrell Bourbon Batch 34. Comingling bourbons between 6 and 15 years in age, this particular recipe rested in American White Oak barrels in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana before bottling at a whopping 114.62 proof. Unfortunately, this iteration just isn’t my cup of tea!
Press materials detail a blending process that marries 8-year barrels redolent with nutty cherry notes and fruity corn flavors for months before introducing spicy high-rye components and finally inviting some 10- and 15-year barrels along for the ride. Ambitious, to be sure, but the end result seems excessive- brash, overcomplicated, and in a nutshell, overwhelming for my preferences.
Batch 34 kicks hard right off the bat. Intense ethanol required a few minutes to allow the vapors to dissipate, leading to a nose suggesting fruit and honeysuckle but packing a punch to the lips and the front of the palate. When sampled neat, the initial draw knocked my co-taster and me back into our seats. A splash of water mellowed things just enough to detect hints of oak, roasted nut, French toast, and cinnamon, but we both felt that the corn-forward alcohol overwhelmed the subtler flavor nuances. The finish lingers for a decent amount of time before fading out.
With this level of heat and intensity, Batch 34 is better suited for experienced whiskey drinkers seeking bolder expressions and fans of the Barrel Craft brand looking to grow their collection. It’s likely to be less appreciated by entry-level bourbon acolytes. If you can, I’d recommend tasting it before purchasing a bottle. It’s certainly more likely to be an acquired taste!