What would bourbon season be without a few new releases from the prolific blenders at Barrell Bourbon? While Jonathan is hard at work tasting the new Cask Finish Series duo (more amburana!), today I’m checking out two somewhat a-typical offerings: Foundation, Barrell’s very first non-cask strength whiskey, and a new cask strength rye. Thoughts follow.
Barrell Foundation Bourbon 5 Years Old – Most new whiskey-makers start with entry-level, everyday offerings, but Barrell Craft Spirits came out of the gate a decade ago with a portfolio of exclusively super premium, cask strength expressions. Their recent Stellum line was billed as an attempt to offer affordability to Barrell fans, but the pricier Stellum Black releases seem to have stolen the spotlight. Barrell Foundation is perhaps an attempt to rectify that and finally establish a more entry-level offering with the added benefit of Barrell’s name recognition.
While a bit younger on paper than the cask strength batch releases, the makeup of this one will look familiar to Barrell fans (for the most part). It’s a blend of straight bourbons, aged between 5 and 9 years, sourced from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Maryland (Maryland? Yes, Maryland.). As noted, it’s also the first Barrell product to be proofed down before bottling. That fact is immediately apparent on the nose which is downright delicate compared to most Barrell releases. Soft layers of vanilla fondant, citrus peel, cherry cookies, and brown butter roll out of the glass and bloom with dark brown sugar and a subtle waxiness. The palate is a bit bolder but still impressively approachable without sacrificing much on the flavor front. An initial rush of praline and light maple syrup quickly builds with dry, warming notes of cinnamon and clove-studded orange before a generous finish of cream soda and buttery caramel. A long overdue daily drinker that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. 100 proof. A- / $55
Barrell Rye Batch 004 – Barrell doesn’t release rye whiskey at anywhere near the pace of their bourbons. At last check, there have been 35 different bourbon batches but only three rye batches, now joined by this latest installment. It’s a blend of five different ryes, aged between 5 and 14 years, sourced from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Canada. Barrell describes this release as earthy, and I can’t disagree. The nose is dry with notes of sawdust, wood oil, and new leather. As it opens, cut grass, lemon peel, and wintergreen arrive with a measured sweetness. The palate showcases pronounced rye spice with an initial wave of sweet dark berry and licorice that builds with peppery intensity into a midpalate of clove and pine sap. There’s a nice lacing of bright mint throughout which again adds a welcome sweetness, especially once the finish arrives with piquant oak tones, dried herbs, and peppercorn. Definitely a rye for fans of the dry, peppery style. 115.7 proof. B+ / $90
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