If you’ve been on a distillery tour, you may have seen the area where master tasters sample, select and mingle multiple barrels of aged whiskey to match an established flavor profile. This is done to keep a particular brand consistent from bottle to bottle. You probably have a favorite (or many) and you select those favorites for certain reasons, usually because it has a taste you have come to love. And you’ve pretty much come to expect each bottle to be the way you remember it.
Single barrel bourbons are just that —- the bourbon in that bottle came from just one barrel rather than many mingled barrels. There are single barrels that are released from the distillery (Evan Williams Single Barrel for instance), and there are store selected single barrels, usually from a distillery’s program of allowing stores to come on site and select a barrel which is then bottled and additionally labeled with that store’s label. In my experience, single barrels are usually good, and are reasonably close to the standard profile of the non-single barrel same label. A fun future experiment may be in comparing two same label single barrels — from different barrels — just to see what differences you might be able to pick up.
Today, I’m sampling a store-selected single barrel of Eagle Rare. This particular selection was made by Joe’s Liquor in Memphis, Tennessee. Eagle Rare is one of the many bourbons produced by the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is made from their #1 (low rye) mashbill, which is assumed to be 75 percent corn, 10 percent rye and 15 percent barley. They use a #4 char on their barrels and usually barrel at 125 proof. Eagle Rare is bottled at 90 proof and (at least for now) carries a 10-year age statement.
After the pour and before the first nose, I like to take a good look at the whiskey in the glass. To the eye, this one is a deep amber.
The nose is not overpowering. I find it hard to pick up a lot of aromas on the nose. I pick up the barrel char and oak. Maybe light caramel and vanilla, but I’m wondering if that is only because that is what I expect to smell. On the palate, you initially get a load of barrel char and oak —- all in a good way. The mid-palate gives some mintiness and the finish is medium long. Another nose following the taste tends to reveal more vanilla. Mouth feel is a medium viscosity — not as oily as some, but definitely not thin or watery. I continue to pick up on the oak and char on the finish.
Need to develop a scale for reviews.
Do you want to use a points system (out of 100) and if so pick points from categories such as appearance, nose, palate/taste, finish (like Modern Thirst) or and A/B/C/D/F scale, or a 1 to 10 scale or a 1 to 5 scale (stars / barrels / bottles)
Need a scale for mouth feel (maybe a “slider” from water to oil)
Need to pick price categories (every $10, every $15, every $20, or $10-15, $16-25, $26-38, $39-50, $50-80, $80-100, $100+)
Single barrels, whether they are the distillery’s single barrel (for example a Evan Williams Single Barrel) or your favorite liquor store’s own barrel selection are interesting in that the juice in the bottle came from a single barrel rather than being mingled with others. So while a single barrel expression may not necessarily match the standard profile, (staying with the same example, the standard Evan Williams) the single barrel will have a strong resemblance to the standard.