What’s new and exciting? That is a question we get asked all the time at the store and typically there is something that would qualify as new and exciting. It just so happens that this month we have three new and exciting products and they are all single barrel Whiskeys, chosen by our staff at Beltramo’s.
What is a single barrel Whiskey, how do you choose it, how is it better, and do they send you the barrel and you bottle it at the store? Single barrel Whiskey is just that: one single barrel of whiskey. Standard protocol for making whiskey is to blend several barrels into one uniform whiskey that remains consistent bottle after bottle which for all intents and purposes is a great thing. There is nothing wrong with knowing what you’re getting quality and taste wise when you buy something, but occasionally, it is nice to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new and exciting which is exactly what we’ve been provided with, thanks to the good folks at Heaven Hill Distillery.
Going back to answer some of those question how is it is better? Better is a relative term: to me different and interesting are better ways to describe single barrel Whiskeys. How do we get different and interesting? It starts with our supplier supplying us with a range of samples (see photo). In the case of our Elijah Craig bottling the only thing the samples have in common was that they were all 12 years old. The variables include proof at the time it was removed from the barrel and where the barrel was stored (first floor or the fifth floor of the Rick house). Each of these factors changes the final product. And finally, no we do not set up a bottling line in the back of the store. The distillery does the bottling and adds our label.
Here are some of my tasting notes.
Bernheim Wheat Whiskey (51% soft winter wheat as opposed to 51% corn as in Bourbon) 90 Proof 5 Years Old ($29.99)
The Bernheim Wheat has a deep bronze, copper color
Crisp and light, apple cider, all spice, and toasted oak on the nose.
This is such a great whiskey for any skill level of drinking, but especially for those just starting their way down the Bourbon trail, it is a great gateway whiskey. Beautifully balanced, but the flavors are well defined with vanilla and light honey sweetness that isn’t sticky in the least. The sweetness is far from cloying. Cherry notes come through also followed by heavily toasted bread and dry oak. Sweet spices emerge from mid palate through to the finish. For such a light, airy Whiskey, this finish is really pretty long. Again the cherry fruit shines through in a hard cherry candy or maraschino flavor, and then toasted oak and sweet spice really takes over.
Elijah Craig 94 Proof 12 Years Old ($23.99)
The Elijah Craig has a light caramel reddish color
Elijah Craig has a bouquet of vanilla, firm, not overbearing. The roast from the barrels is evident to the nose, and upon tasting, it has certain dry vanilla bean to it. Our barrel seems to have more oomph than the standard Elijah which could be because ours is all 12 year, whereas in the standard Elijah Craig 12 Year bottling, Heaven Hill will add some older whiskey for smoothness.
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 86.6 10 Years and 8 months ($24.99)
The Evan Williams Single Barrel has a deep gold/honey color.
On the nose, vanilla, candied orange rind, hints of clove and nutmeg.
Caramel and vanilla with a candied fruit heart, the oak influence is quite minimal compared to 2001 non Beltramo’s bottling that I tried last. The Whiskey is layered and composed from entry to the finish. Subtle sweetness and ever increasing warmth, the rye adds a little pop to the finish.
Rick C., Beltramo’s Spirits Buyer