Almost all whisky is made up of multiple barrels, with varying flavor profiles combined to create a specific style for that particular expression. But many distilleries also release single-barrel whiskies: drawn from just one cask, with a unique taste profile. Think of Blanton’s, the first true single-barrel bourbon to hit shelves, or Baker’s, a standout from Whisky Advocate’s 2019 Top 20 list. Both are highly regarded whiskeys from big distilleries whose nuances vary from barrel to barrel.
Craft distillers are getting in on the single-barrel fun as well. These four reviews from our Summer 2020 Buying Guide highlight the crop of single-barrel releases available from up-and-coming distillers all across the map. Depending on which barrel you taste, the notes may be somewhat different—but all of these whiskeys are sure to offer unique insights into a distillery’s house character.
Try These New Single-Barrel Craft Bourbons and Rye
Filibuster Single Barrel Straight Bourbon—93 points, $56
Scan the dessert case and choose your favorite, because they’re all here in abundance: cake donuts, sticky buns, pralines, cocoa-dusted truffles, and strawberry tarts on the nose. Espresso, tea, and spice notes add some gravitas to the palate, which is chewy and oak forward, but dark fruit, milk chocolate, and sweet pecans and peanuts maintain balance. The finish is a dream, lengthy and well-developed, with nutmeg, chai spice, toasted oak, tea leaf, milk chocolate, and boysenberry. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Blinking Owl Single Barrel Straight Rye (Batch 2)—89 points, $75
Is there such a thing as “beach rye?” Wafting breezes carry coconut, almond orgeat, and tropical fruit aromas, along with dried orange rind, chamomile tea, clove, mint, and earthy pecans. The easy-drinking palate has less fruit and more herbs, with licorice, spearmint, and allspice, underpinned by nuts and dry oak. Rounded out with orange blossom water, chai, dark berries, and more spearmint, allspice, and oak on the finish. This should come with a hammock. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Tumblin’ Dice 4 year old Single Barrel Barrel-Proof Straight Bourbon (No. 1)—88 points, $59
The nose is redolent of tea leaves, peach skin, herbal honey throat lozenges, blueberries, brown sugar, licorice, and toasted grain. More herbaceousness hits on the palate, cooling some of the cinnamon spice of the high proof with spearmint and licorice notes; add water, and nuttiness emerges. Continued herbal flavors into the finish, which also has citrus oil and peppery spice. Strong barrel character throughout. (5,500 bottles) —Susannah Skiver Barton
Oregon Spirit Single Barrel Bottled in Bond Bourbon (No. 150330 01)—86 points, $75
The nose starts with anise cookies and butterscotch, then reveals magnolia leaf, bergamot, sarsaparilla, and tea leaves. Barrel-driven, the palate is peppery, minty, and a little piney, with bitter chocolate and roasted nuts. More black pepper, chocolate, peppermint stick, and bitter oak into the short finish. Water recommended. (278 bottles) —Susannah Skiver Barton