4 Wide-Ranging Single-Barrel Whiskeys to Try Now

Single-barrel whiskeys are fairly commonplace nowadays but that wasn’t always the case. On a recent #TasteWithSpace interview, Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe explained how his father, master distiller Booker Noe, was against bottling single-barrel whiskeys, instead favoring a uniform flavor profile achieved through blending. “If Dad were still alive you wouldn’t see single barrel [at Beam],” Noe said. “He was so strong about what he thought; that’s the way the products were.”

While Booker Noe’s contributions to bourbon continue to be felt today, palates and perceptions have changed, opening up the door for one-off expressions in the form of single-barrel releases. In the Winter 2020 Buying Guide, there are more than 170 whiskies reviewed spanning many styles and profiles. These four single-barrel whiskeys give drinkers a glimpse at the possible flavors one cask can hold. Most are high in proof and price, but they provide an opportunity to taste bourbon and whiskey in a truly unique form.

Have a Singular Tasting Experience With These Whiskeys

King of Kentucky 14 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight 2020 Release (Barrel No. 3) bottle.King of Kentucky 14 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2020 Release (Barrel No. 3)
95 points, 65.3% ABV, $250

Intensely fruity to start, with dark cherries, blackberries, and raspberry coulis; there’s also dark chocolate, maple syrup, leather book bindings, and oolong tea, set over a background of baking spice. With water, brown sugar creeps in at the outer edges. Remarkable complexity on the palate: cooked dark fruit, dark chocolate ganache, tea leaf, roasted pecans, maple syrup, licorice, tobacco, and well-integrated spice. The flavor array is seemingly endless, and carries well into a lengthy, warming finish. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Lucky Seven 12 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel Kentucky Straight (Barrel No. 7) bottle.Lucky Seven 12 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Barrel No. 7)
94 points, 59.15% ABV, $129

Initially tight on the nose, the gentle vanilla and delicate spice are draped in leather and dusty oak floorboards. Maturity is present on the palate as well, not only in the full body, but also in the form of intense vanilla and citrus furniture polish, like orange oil. At the same time, it’s quite lively, as a burst of dark fruits, cassis, and licorice rises from the depths before the drying oak finish. —Jeffery Lindenmuth

Jacob’s Pardon 15 year old Single Barrel American Whiskey (No. 23) bottle.Jacob’s Pardon 15 year old Single Barrel American Whiskey (No. 23)
93 points, 70.9% ABV, $200

Remarkably easy drinking considering its hyper-charged proof, with an equally pronounced profile of balanced sweetness. The nose exudes caramel sauce, blackberry compote, cherry, maple syrup, semi-sweet chocolate, and vanillin, with earthy notes of warehouse floor and barrel char. The palate offers chocolate mousse, rice pudding, and cooked figs, leading to a long finish of cooked plums, dark berry tart, and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Rich, viscous, and loaded with balanced sweet flavors. —David Fleming

Koval Single Barrel (No. ZT3W42) bottle.Koval Single Barrel Bourbon (No. ZT3W42)
88 points, 47% ABV, $50

The unusual use of millet as the secondary grain for this bourbon creates an utterly unexpected flavor profile, closer to the familiar notes of rye. It works well, but the blind drinker may be taken unawares. Freshness dominates the nose, with balsam bough, spruce branches, mint toothpaste, and Pine-Sol, and it pervades the palate too, which is green and peppy with arugula, spearmint, pine, black pepper, and lemon. The finish shows bitter oak but remains persistently piney and fresh. —Susannah Skiver Barton

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