Barrell Craft Spirits was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 2013 by Joe Beatrice, a former marketing and technology entrepreneur. The company originally began by sourcing bourbon exclusively from various distilleries and bottling it at barrel proof, a nod to the founder’s preference for high proof whiskey. Since that time, Barrell has significantly expanded its portfolio, which now includes rye whiskey, American whiskey, and rum, and their products can now be found in 46 states. The company recently developed a very successful single barrel program and has cultivated a reputation as one of the most unique and innovative producers of finished whiskies in the market. While most distilleries seem to focus on creating single cask products, Barrell has started to showcase its blending prowess by creating blends of whiskey finished in multiple casks, including brandy, rum, amaro, and various types of wine.
Seagrass is the newest release in Barrell’s multi-finished line of whiskies. It is a blend of American and Canadian rye whiskey that has been finished in Martinique Rhum Agricole, Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. According to the company:
Barrell Seagrass is 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. Hot sun, brisk air, dry sand, and oceanside vegetation are brought to mind. A ripe and inviting tropical nose and grassy, bright body evolve to a finish as long as the view down the shore on a clear day.
Like all Barrell products, Seagrass is bottled at barrel proof, which is 118.4 (59.2% abv) for this blend. The suggested retail price for this bottle is $90.
Appearance – Orange amber, with slow, medium legs forming in the Glencairn.
Nose – This was a fresh cork pop, and right out of the bottle I found some obvious ethanol, lemon grass, fresh pear, and some floral perfume notes, creating almost a chardonnay-like aroma. With time these notes softened and revealed a more prominent rye spice, toffee, dark cherry, bubblegum, and a distinct note of apricot preserves. Over time, the apricot note really started to dominate the nose.
Palate – Right up front this whiskey has a nice viscosity and there is a lot going on. It is quite sweet initially, revealing some milk chocolate covered toffee, orange zest, and peach, but once again the sweet, prepared apricot notes really dominate. Through the sweetness, the rye character of this whiskey does provide a nice peppery spice mid-tongue and just a touch of some floral, grassy notes that rest on the back of the palate. I found the palate to be challenging to say the least!
Finish – The finish here is long and warm, with a lingering rye spice and a subtle burn that belies the proof of this whiskey. The prepared apricot note starts to fade and reveals more tropical notes of charred pineapple and citrus. I also found some caramel syrup, roasted pecan, ginger, and some tannic oak that created a somewhat dry conclusion to the pour.
Overall – Barrell has really started to stand out as a leader and innovator in the world of finished whiskey. This is not the first time they have taken a big risk and created a unique blend of finished whiskey (and with a rye no less!) and I doubt it will be their last. And despite my overall distaste for finished whiskey, I have to applaud them for their creativity and blending prowess with many of these products.
Having said that, I am not sure how to feel about this product. There is definitely a lot going on here but I am not yet convinced that everything works well together. I think the base rye has some nice qualities but the sweetness from the apricot brandy finish really dominates the rye character and at times the flavors felt somewhat combative. I also wasn’t able to pick up much influence from the other finishes, particularly the Agricole. I have sat down with this pour on three separate occasions but I just can’t seem to find the overall balance I was hoping to find.
Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a more traditional whiskey enthusiast and not a fan of finished whiskey, so my overall view of this product is probably skewed. I do think there are some great qualities to this whiskey but I don’t think it is one I will sip neat regularly. With the intense Florida heat right around the corner, perhaps this whiskey will be a nice a base for some tropical-inspired cocktails!