Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Seagrass (2022 Release)
Canadian — (bottled in) Kentucky, CanadaTasted March 17, 2022Nose - apricot, peach, butterscotch, coffee, vanilla cream, dark chocolate, pear, baked apple, sawdust, honey, earthy mint, clove, anise, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - salted caramel, vanilla, spiced apple, pear, apricot, peach, orange oil, dark chocolate, cherry jam, honey, anise, clove, spearmint, ginger, black pepper, rich oak, moderate alcohol bite, finishing long with apricot, stone fruit, and citrus oil flavors. For my 500th review, I wanted something special and likely to receive a high rating from me. And with t8ke giving this a rare perfect score, the 16 Year Gray Label Seagrass is as good as any to mark the occasion. However, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the standard Seagrass release, so let’s see how this stacks up. The nose is rich and darkly fruity with apricot, peach, dark chocolate, and a host of earthy rye spices. It’s unquestionably superior to the standard release’s. The palate is similarly darker, richer, and oilier. Those stone fruits are right up front with deep orange oil and sour cherry jam flavors. The mouthfeel is thick and the finish lingers pleasantly. I was asked to compare this with the standard Seagrass release. Well the results are in, and this is way better. It shares the same DNA, but fixes all the issues I had with the younger counterpart. The $250 price tag is questionable, but the quality isn’t. This isn’t perfect, but it’s outstanding and probably the best rye I’ve ever tried. A huge thank you to @pkingmartin for providing the generous sample!
Rye — (bottled in) Kentucky, Multiple CountriesTasted March 16, 2022Nose - anise, rye bread, pear, honey, butterscotch, apple, clove, apricot, vanilla, dry herbal notes, orange pith, powdered sugar, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - green apple, pear, honey, ginger, anise, clove, orange oil, sour cherry, bitter herbal notes, rye bread, lemon, moderate to high alcohol bite, finishing medium length with pear, citrus oil, and bitter herbal flavors. I’ve been looking forward to trying this one for a while now. Reviews have been fairly split, and there’s no shortage of opinions especially with the new 16 Year release making waves. The nose is fruity but also rather dry. There’s a distinct rye bread quality with some pear, apple, bitter citrus, and honey aromas. The palate is punchy with rye spice, sour red fruit, and more bitter citrus. The mouthfeel is above average and the finish is mediocre. Darn! I really wanted to like this more. It’s decent, but strikes me as young, bitter, and hot. The best part is a mouthwatering sourness that draws you back in for another sip, but that next sip inevitably underwhelms. I’m really excited to try the 16 Year version next. Many thanks to both @pkingmartin and @jonwilkinson7309 for providing these generous samples. I tried both while writing the review, and there was no difference between the two.
Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label 15 Year Bourbon (2021 Release)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted March 10, 2022Nose - black cherry, salted caramel, peanut, apple, vanilla, orange, black pepper, nutmeg, dark chocolate, dry oak, tobacco, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - cherry, apple, butterscotch, vanilla, sweet floral notes, leather, cinnamon butter, yeast, orange, chocolate, ginger, mint, raspberry, tannic oak, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium length with cherry, butterscotch, orange, and baking spice flavors. The last of my Barrell 15 Year releases is this 2021 expression. As expected, it’s a blend of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana bourbons. Safe to say that Dickel and MGP are in the mix, but the Kentucky component isn’t as clear to me. The nose is very different from the 2019 and 2020 versions. First, that overbearing Dickel vitamin aroma isn’t nearly as overwhelming. It’s present, but more in the background. The same is true for that dry roasted peanut quality found with its counterparts. It’s markedly fruitier with something akin to a Buffalo Trace floral cherry aroma. The palate hits more similarly to the previous versions than the nose. The strong nutty orange minerality is present and the fruit and citrus turn slightly sour. The mouthfeel is medium and the finish is above average. Rating this one is difficult. This has my favorite nose of the three, but I think it’s bringing up the rear from a palate perspective. It’s very good, but definitely veers into tannic, sour territory. On a different day, I could see scoring this higher, but I’m sticking here for now. Many thanks to @pkingmartin for providing the generous sample!
Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon 15 Year (2020 Release)
Bourbon — (bottled in) Kentucky, USATasted March 8, 2022Nose - roasted peanut, orange vitamin, red berry, butterscotch, anise, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco, brown sugar, cinnamon, rich oak, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - orange vitamin, cherry, baked apple, leather, tobacco, cinnamon butter, dry oak, anise, peanut, dark chocolate, black pepper, toffee, vanilla, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium length with orange vitamin, roasted peanut, and dry oak flavors. Next up is this 2020 version of the Barrell 15 Year release. I enjoyed the 2019 version, but I didn’t particularly like the dry, bitter quality or the Dickel influence. Well, this has a lot of Dickel in it as well, so let’s see how it stacks up. The nose is rich and fruity. Those roasted nuts and Dickel vitamins makes themselves immediately known. But unlike the 2019 release, this is richer and not nearly as dry. There’s a nice red berry notes alongside butterscotch and sweet tobacco aromas. The palate carries many of the same flavors, including the Dickel vitamins, a buttery cinnamon note, leather, and some dark chocolate. The mouthful is full and the finish is above average. So right off the bat, this is better than the 2019 release. However, the bitterness is still present and Dickel unmistakably pervades the entire experience. Nonetheless, this is great whiskey. If I appreciated Dickel more, this could be outstanding whiskey. Many thanks to @pkingmartin for providing the generous sample!
BARRELL CRAFT SPIRITS 15 YEAR BOURBON (2019 RELEASE)
Bourbon — USATasted March 7, 2022Nose - roasted peanut, cocoa, toffee, vanilla, cinnamon, red berry, orange vitamin, sweaty oak, anise, black pepper, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - toffee, orange vitamin, vanilla, roasted peanut, baked apple, chocolate malt, cinnamon butter, leather, nutmeg, black cherry, dry oak, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium length with roasted peanut, orange, and baking spice flavors. I have the great fortune of possessing three separate Barrell 15 Year samples, the 2019, 2020, and 2021. Starting here with the 2019 release, the nose has a strong dry roasted peanut quality. Cocoa powder, orange vitamin, and toffee are also very present. It’s rich, but very drying. The palate carries the same roasted peanut quality or possibly something similar to a homemade peanut butter. Malted chocolate, black cherry, and strong baking spices round out a nice, albeit slightly bitter and drying, palate. The mouthfeel and finish are above average. So the Dickel is definitely strong with this one. That telltale orange vitamin minerality is unmistakable. Further, there’s a very present musty peanut quality that makes me think of Beam, but I can’t verify that. Overall, this is very good bourbon. It’s extremely close to being great bourbon, but those Dickel vitamins and a borderline unpleasant bitterness hold it back for me. A big thank you to @Bourbon_Obsessed_Lexington for providing the generous sample!
Bourbon — Tennessee (bottled in Kentucky), USATasted March 3, 2022Nose - black cherry, orange vitamin, lemon, allspice, grass, cardamom, banana, pear, yeast, chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla, dry oak, brown sugar, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - butterscotch, dry herbal notes, cherry, orange vitamin, vanilla, spiced apple, brown sugar, pear, dry oak, allspice, allspice, chocolate, hazelnut, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium length with butterscotch, dry oak, and herbal flavors. Next up on the Barrell train is the Armida release. This is one funky bourbon! The first thing notice is that Dickel orange vitamin note. I don’t hate the Dickel profile as much as some, but I don’t love it either. I can’t make out all the finishes on the nose, but the rum influence is pretty obvious from the banana, allspice, and grassy qualities. The palate is surprisingly dry and earthy. The Dickel is right there again alongside some powdery nuttiness. Overall this is good, but I wish it weren’t as dry and herbaceous. I’m thinking they went a bit overboard with the finishing. There’s some quality whiskey underneath, but it feels slightly rudderless. Regardless, this is very drinkable, and it’s certainly a unique take on bourbon that I’m happy to experience. A big thank you to @jonwilkinson7309 for providing the generous sample!
Barrell Bourbon Batch 021
Bourbon — (bottled in) Kentucky, USATasted March 2, 2022Nose - cherry, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon butter, caramel, leather, chocolate, roasted peanut, orange zest, rich oak, black pepper, moderate to high ethanol burn. Taste - caramel, buttered popcorn, peanut, black cherry, sour apple, marshmallow, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, barrel char, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium length with caramel, sour apple, and buttered popcorn flavors. Coming off a series of delicious Springbanks, I really have a hankering for some good American whiskey. And what better place to find refuge than in some Barrell Craft Spirits bottlings. Over the coming days, I’ll be working my way through nine of their releases ranging from the relatively cheap core expressions to some much older, more expensive ones. Let’s kick it off with this Batch 21 bourbon release from 2020. While the component whiskies are between 10 and 14 years old, the nose is very lively. Cherry, brown sugar, cinnamon butter, leather, and a rich, roasty toasty quality. The palate brings a smoky, barrel char note, more cherry, chocolate, and some marshmallow. Some unwanted sourness sneaks in as well, but it’s not overwhelming. The mouthfeel and finish are medium. This is good bourbon. If the palate were as good as the nose, this would be great bourbon. I’m considering picking up the new Batch 31. The prices are probably higher than they should be, but most are these days. Many thanks to @jonwilkinson7309 for providing the generous sample!
Springbank 23 year Calvert Woodley Single Cask
Single Malt — ScotlandTasted February 27, 2022Nose - lemon, tangerine, pineapple, flinty peat, vanilla cream, cinnamon, hay, green apple, grape, mild to moderate ethanol burn. Taste - lemon zest, pineapple, sour apple, bitter walnut, cinnamon, vanilla, brine, pear, mild peat, honey, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium short with lemon, sour apple, and light peat flavors. In my haste to review the delicious 8 Year Society bottling which I thought was my last in the series, I forgot about this 23 Year single cask from Calvert Woodley and bottled at 42.5%. Honestly though, this one is the easiest to forgot. But at less than $200 for the bottle, I couldn’t pass it up. It seemed too good to be true. And it was. The nose is rather fruity and aromatic. The bottle doesn’t indicate which type of cask was used, but I’d wager it was bourbon, as there are some strong similarities between this and my core range 18 Year from 2018. There’s lemon, a tropical quality, and a milder version of the classic barnyard funk. The palate takes a turn for the worse. It’s not bad, but some of the nice aromas on the nose turn sour and bitter with the taste. The mouthfeel is thin and the finish is lacking. Overall, this is better than average but that’s really not acceptable at close to $200 a bottle. The mouthfeel and finish would likely be improved at a higher proof, but I doubt the sourness and bitterness would subside. In the end, this is probably just a dud of a single cask, or at least as close to one as Springbank can produce.
Springbank Society 8 Year Fresh Sherry Hoghsheads January 2021
Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTasted February 24, 2022Nose - flinty peat, plum, fig, apricot, chocolate malt, honey, nutmeg, molasses, powdered sugar, sweet floral notes, candied orange, mint, hay, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - oily peat, chocolate malt, hay, ginger, lemon, charred orange, cardamom, black cherry, apricot, nutmeg, toasted oak, spiced apple, honey, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium long with sherried fruit, oily peat, chocolate, and baking spice flavors. I’m wrapping up my review series with this 8 Year Springbank Society release aged in fresh sherry hogsheads and bottled at a robust 57.3%. The nose is fantastic. I’d call this a sherry bomb. The funky Springbank quality is present, but it’s complemented beautifully by malted chocolate, dark stone fruits, and strong baking spices. The palate comes in hot with rich dark fruits, overripe zesty citrus, more chocolate, and barnyard peat. The mouthful is thick and the finish is decadent. A few of us were recently discussing our favorite cold weather drinks. This would have to be a contender. It’s about as close to Christmas in a bottle as Springbank can be. It’s delicious, and I’d love to own one. A huge thank you to @Richard-ModernDrinking for providing the generous sample. This one is outstanding.
Springbank 21 Year
Peated Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTasted February 23, 2022Nose - brown sugar, dark chocolate, oily peat, black cherry, grape jam, molasses, rich oak, charred orange, toffee, vanilla cream, banana, walnut, allspice, lemon, grass, moderate ethanol burn. Taste - oily peat, grapefruit, pomegranate, orange zest, lemon, grass, pineapple, allspice, green apple, chocolate, hazelnut, brown sugar, white pepper, ginger, moderate alcohol bite, finishing medium long with sour fruit, oily peat, and chocolate flavors. Here we have the 2019 release of the 21 Year, matured in 55% rum and 45% port casks. At the time, this was the most expensive bottle I had ever purchased, somewhere north of $400. I have high hopes, but is the juice worth the squeeze? The nose takes some time to open up in the glass, but once it does you’re greeted with tart, jammy grapes, cherry pie, rich brown sugar, the classic, oily Springbank funk, and a sweet tropical quality. The palate is rich and deeply citrusy. There are dark, rich fruits, chocolate, rummy banana, and more tropical flavors. Long story short, this is great but absolutely not worth the money, at least for me. I prefer all three of the 12 Year Cask Strength expressions I reviewed, and I’d happily buy three or four of those bottles for the same price as this one. As the 21 Year is a batch product, I could very well enjoy a different version much more than this. Given my history with rum and port finished whiskies, I probably would prefer a more traditional sherry and bourbon cask release.