Maybe three is a magic number. Known for its innovative approach to blending, the Louisville-based Barrell Craft Spirits operation relies on a trio of Japanese Mizunara, French, and toasted American virgin oak casks for finishing its latest Barrell Vantage offering ($90) released in August. The straight bourbon elements are finished separately, then blended to create a product that’s greater than the sum of its parts, with each wood bringing its own very specific character and flavor to the party.
Distilled in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee before bottling in Kentucky at cask strength, this sassy little number comes in hot at 114.44 proof. As expected, the nose and first swig are fairly assertive, but surprisingly sweet with bold notes of brown sugar, candied apple, spicy ginger, cinnamon red hots, and a hint of clove.
Rich in mouthfeel, the finish lingers nicely before fading out with a warm and peppery slow burn. It’s tasty enough to (judiciously) sip neat, but a splash of water or a couple ice cubes tone the heat down just enough to create a more palatable drinking experience.