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 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 the creativity of its team by creating blends of whiskey finished in multiple casks, including brandy, rum, amaro, and various types of wine.
Vantage is the newest release from Barrell that will become part of their annual lineup of blended whiskies. Vantage is a blend of straight bourbons that were sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Each whiskey is then finished separately in one of three distinct expressions of virgin oak: Mizunara, French, and toasted American oak casks. Once the finishing was complete, the Barrell team went to work on creating a harmonious blend of whiskey. According to Barrell:
The BCS team has drawn on years of experience with three-part barrel finishing, used previously in Armida, Dovetail, and Seagrass. With Vantage, those same techniques were applied to the oak itself, using different char levels, toast levels, and oak origins to create a multidimensional blend.https://www.barrellbourbon.com/vantage
As with all Barrell releases, this whiskey is bottled at barrel proof (114.44 proof/57.22% abv) and retails for approximately $90.
Appearance – Deep amber.
Nose – Initially, notes of warm dark berries abound, along with some juicy apple, baking spices, and just a hint of toasted grain. I instantly thought of a freshly baked fruit tart. However, with time I started to pull out the aroma of roasted peanuts and rich vanilla custard with just a hint of char.
Palate – On the palate, there is a familiar spiciness up front, reminiscent of some quality Indiana whiskey, along with baked green apple, caramel, coffee beans, and a perfect proof punch. As you work through the pour, the oak really starts to take center stage and enhances the spicy qualities in this blend. The oak is not overpowering by any means and the blend of different oaks provides a nice balance of barrel influence. The mouthfeel is surprisingly rich and oily, despite the heavy oak presence.
Finish – The finish is pleasantly long and spicy. More of those dark fruit and vanilla custard notes are present, but a bouquet of baking spices really dominates the finish. I found a range of spices, including black peppercorn, cinnamon, ginger, anise, and allspice, all underscored by some subtle barrel char influence. The pour becomes slightly tannic toward the end, but the tannins are not overpowering or off-putting. The oak profile here is somewhat difficult to pin down, as the flavors are not typical of what you may find in a toasted barrel or other oak finishing process, but it is absolutely a fun challenge.
Overall – I’ve been a fairly vocal critic of some of Barrell’s prior releases, particularly those that utilized multiple-cask finishing. I absolutely respect their team for their blending prowess and creativity, but some of these releases just did not appeal to me as a more conservative whiskey drinker. However, with this release Barrell really hit my sweet spot. Barrell acquired some quality whiskey and utilized a unique blend of oak finishing to create a very dynamic whiskey. The oak influence is subtle and challenging, and I found that the pour continues to develop with time. I went through a few pours of Vantage and I just kept finding more! I am pleased to see this become a new addition to Barrell’s annual lineup, and I imagine it will become very difficult to find, even with the nearly $100 price tag.
As always, try this one for yourself and let me know what you think. Cheers y’all!
*Disclaimer – this sample was provided to me free of charge by the distillery; however, this did not impact my review of this product.