...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Barrell Craft Spirits, Part 2: Two ryes

On Monday I reviewed a quartet of Barrell Craft Spirits bourbon(-ish) releases, hoping I'd understand the whiskies enough to actually ponder and opine. The attempts were mostly successful! Now onto the ryes, both in the Barrell Seagrass range.

Something struck me as I looked at the Seagrass label this weekend...

Was this whiskey named SEAGRASS because it is made from rye produced at former SEAGRAM'S distilleries??? Yes, I'm aware that Barrell has a philanthropical relationship with The Ocean Foundation. That's a great thing! But how about it? SEAGRASS = SEAGRAMS? Should I be very proud of myself, or has this theory already been plastered all over social media?

To those new to this rye curio, it's a blend of American and Canadian ryes, finished in Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy barrels. Yes, Barrell's blenders are once again hunching over their blending tables, squinting at their samples, and swirling their beakers, trying to create something unique and palatable at the same time.

I reviewed a different batch of Barrell Seagrass Rye last month, and enjoyed the whiskey. Not enough to run out and buy a bottle, but pretty close to it. This time, I have a different batch of the standard Seagrass AND a gray label (fancy stuff) Seagrass edition aged 16 years. The 16yo had the same barrel finish, but it's fashioned from 100% Canadian rye, so you don't have to open up a new credit card just to afford one bottle.

Here they are, side by side, as I use Monday's approach to review them:

Part 2: Two ryes

Barrell Seagrass Whiskey
American and Canadian Ryes
Barrell Seagrass Whiskey
Canadian Rye
16 years old
1,861 bottles, 66.67%abv
Like its 59.92%abv sibling batch, this whiskey possesses a crazy crazy nose. It starts with a peppery rye spirit base, then spins out to apricot jam, orange zest, and a snuffed citronella candle. Then a fennel bulb, warm Sprite, maple syrup, Carpano Antica, and calamine lotion.This one's nose begins with such a strong chlorine note, that I wonder if it has anything to do with the ethyl burning my skull. Beneath the heat, one may find dark chocolate, eucalyptus, rosewater, and dry soil up front. Then milky coffee, kale, green bell peppers, and raspberries.
The palate arrives hotter than expected. Plenty of rye spirit at the center, again, but it's surrounded by bubblegum, lemon bars, honey, and bitter citrus peel. The sweetness is nearly overwhelming.Thankfully, the palate is neither too hot nor too sweet. It's like a journey through a tree. Really. First there's bark, then pulp, then bark again. Honey, cinnamon, and lime candy surround the wood, while a hint of pinot noir keeps showing up in the background.
Rye candy finish. Honey, cardamom, and lemon hard candies.It has a very similar finish to the 60.1% standard Seagrass, mostly lemons, honey, and dried herbs. No burning sensations.
I think so!
This may be the sugariest rye I've ever tasted. That position used to be held by Angel's Envy, and their rummy rye. With this whiskey, I appreciate that the rye spirit shows through all the decoration, but it also exists completely separate from the finishing casks' contributions. Nothing merges, at least within the palate. The nose, the highlight, lives in its own dimension.16 year old North American whiskey is going to be oak juice no matter what, and this whiskey proves it again. Aside from that alarming chlorine experience, the nose isn't too zany; in fact, I kinda like it. Meanwhile, the palate bludgeons the drinker with a tree trunk. It doesn't matter what the finishing casks held, the wood wins, eliminating complexity. Perhaps one can give it a positive spin: the wood provides focus. It also holds the whiskey back.
Rating: 79Rating: 78


Here's a link to that 59.92%abv batch of Seagrass. As of this morning, it remains my favorite Barrell product. The casks and the sweetness barely graced that batch, and the rye element was very solid. Today's 60.1% batch smells and tastes much younger, while also pushing the finishing barrels harder, resulting in something that feels less baked; the dreaded capital "C" Craft affliction.

It's a rough estimate, but 4-out-of-5 teenage North American whiskies are not going to work with my palate. I wonder if that has something to do with the thinness of column still spirit? Or just aggressively charred oak? Or both?

Next up, four Barrell bourbons!

No comments:

Post a Comment