What whiskey fan doesn’t love a good cask-strength bourbon? After all, it’s the closest to sipping right from the barrel that many of us will ever get, as brands like to position the experience. But sometimes you don’t need a high-octane, tongue-tingling spirit; sometimes you just want something to sip or mix that goes down a little easier. Enter Barrell Foundation, a new 100-proof bourbon from this expert Louisville blending house.
Barrell Craft Spirits is beloved by its fans for the batches of bourbon and cask-finished whiskeys it releases throughout the year, all sourced from different distilleries, blended, and bottled at cask strength (usually upwards of 110 proof). These whiskeys are strong but never hazmat proof, and most taste even better after adding a few drops of water or a large ice cube. But Foundation is the first non-cask-strength bourbon from the company, a five-year-old expression bottled at 100 proof and sourced from four different states. Remember, that age statement indicates the youngest liquid in the blend, but there’s some much more mature whiskey included—specifically, eight-year-old Kentucky bourbon; five-, six-, and nine-year-old Indiana bourbon; eight-year-old Tennessee bourbon; and the dark horse, five- and six-year-old Maryland bourbon. The distilleries are undisclosed, but Dickel and MGP are good guesses what the source might be for some of the liquid.
It should be noted that this whiskey is not cask finished. BCS has put out some excellent whiskeys in that category, with a notable exception being the recent Amburana wood finish that made that whiskey (and every whiskey given this finish) taste like a mouthful of potpourri. The mashbill of the Foundation blend is 73 percent corn, 23 percent rye, and four percent malted barley, so this could arguably fall into the “high rye” category. The whole point of this whiskey, according to Barrell Craft Spirits founder Joe Beatrice, was to create a more accessible and approachable whiskey, and in that he has succeeded. But that doesn’t mean this is a simple or unsophisticated bourbon—on the contrary, this is a satisfying sipper that would also make perfect sense to use in an Old Fashioned or any other whiskey cocktail. The palate immediately reads as classic bourbon with notes of vanilla, molasses, caramel, honey, and brown sugar bouncing off of each other. There’s also a bit of black pepper and baking spice, some grainy notes, a hint of apple crisp, and finally a flash of rock candy on the finish.
Clearly, lower proof doesn’t equate to lower quality with Foundation. And that’s a good thing, because even seasoned whiskey drinkers might be burning out (literally and figuratively) on what is starting to feel like an overpowering wave of barrel-proof releases. It’s great to have those as an option to sip, of course, and part of the joy of drinking barrel-proof whiskey is that you can dilute it to your own personal preference. But it’s also nice to have something to drink that is a more burly than an anodyne 80-proofer that also won’t flip your wig. Big, bold, and brash bourbon is fun, but this 100-proof whiskey should make you very happy.
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this