A couple of weeks ago I was in Bardstown, Kentucky, for the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival. To be honest, I’ll take pretty much any excuse to visit Kentucky. I get to check in with friends, visit a few favorite bars, and, of course, catch up on my bourbon knowledge. These days, there’s plenty of catching up to do. The older, established distilleries keep finding ways to engage with whiskey fans during the ongoing bourbon boom, while smaller companies are pushing at bourbon’s creative boundaries. Among those leading the creative charge is Louisville-based Barrell Craft Spirits. And we’re closing out Bourbon Heritage Month with one of their newest releases: Barrell Vantage Straight Bourbon.
First things first: Barrell isn’t a distillery. Rather, they source whiskeys (rums, too) from different producers and make a different kind of magic happen. Leaning into the creative opportunities that exist in maturing, cask-finishing, and blending whiskies, Barrell is opening up new vistas for bourbon exploration.
Vantage is a blend of three straight bourbons distilled in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. The whiskies are finished separately in casks made of three different types of oak: French oak, more commonly used in winemaking and some European spirits; Mizunara oak, sometimes used to age Japanese whiskies; and toasted American oak. The whiskies are then blended and bottled at cask strength (114.44 proof).
With such a process, the delicate interplay between bourbon and barrel shines through. The aroma is warm with dried spices and bright with tropical fruit and has a creamy, chocolatey undertone. On the palate, Vantage comes through rich and bold. Its full-bodied texture and savory aspects of coffee and pumpernickel join the sweeter tones of dark chocolate and red fruit.
Vantage is the newest of Barrell’s ongoing releases. And with paradigm-shifting practices like these, I’m glad to know it’ll be sticking around. $89.99, barrellbourbon.com