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The Bottles Private Barrel Selections, Part II

Last week we introduced you to a few of the newest additions to our private stash of whiskey barrels. They’re the one-of-a-kind barrels from the world’s top distillers that our team hand-picked to be bottled exclusively for our customers. For a look into how these bottles differ from what’s on store shelves all over the world, take a peak at last week’s post. To learn about the rest of our current collection, read on.

1792 Full Proof
125 proof
Selected in March 2017
The good people at the 1792 Bardstown Distillery – Part of the Sazerac / Buffalo Trace family – were kind enough to send three samples up to Rhode Island late last winter. Though it took some time for the guys to agree, they eventually selected the softest barrel of the bunch, one with well-integrated oaky notes under a warm blanket of bourbon. At 125 proof, it’s pretty hot!

Flavor Profile: Bright & zesty. Notes of stewed cherries & clove, with subtle rye spice in the finish.
Serving Suggestion: We like this best neat, with a splash of water. $49.99

Hillrock Double Cask Rye
90 proof
Selected in February 2016
On a very blustery day and after a treacherous road-trip to NY’s Hudson Valley deep in the winter of 2016, our team arrived at Hillrock’s breathtaking estate to taste with Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. After a lot of laughter, chatting and tasting through six freshly drawn barrel samples, they selected this barrel for the pure, grainy rye flavor that Hillrock is known for, along with its subtle caramel coating on the finish.

Flavor Profile: Rich & aromatic. Like running through a field of grain with your mouth open after you had a Hershey’s Kiss.
Serving Suggestion: Good on its own, or with a single cube. Suitable for an expensive Old Fashioned or Manhattan. $89.99

Glendalough Triple Barrel
84 proof
Selected in December 2015
What could possibly make an Irish whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in sherry barrels better? Giving them a final resting in a Madeira barrel before bottling, of course! With only a very limited number of bottles available, we jumped at the chance to add this to our collection.

Flavor Profile: Creamy & fruity. A mouth-coating blast of warm pear and raisin with a subtle warming finish.
Serving Suggestions: Best consumed after dinner, neat or on the rocks. $39.99


Four Roses Barrel #5 OESQ***
127 proof
Selected in April 2017
On a perfect early spring day in Kentucky our team had the arduous task of tasting through 17 barrels at the Four Roses distillery with Senior Brand Ambassador Al Young. They eventually selected one with the “Q” or “Floral” yeast strain, which is not a common choice. Later that day they ran into Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott, who was excited that they had chosen the “Q.” It’s one that he’s most proud of. We hope you like it, too.

Flavor Profile: Delicate and demure. So subtle, with wispy floral and citrus notes belying the extraordinary ABV.
Serving Suggestion: Fine on its own, despite the heat, but does well with a splash of cool water. $59.99

Four Roses Barrel #4 OESF***
107.6 proof
Selected in September 2015
Hailing from Louisville, Eric Taylor, our Director of Operations, is always up for a trip back home to pick out bourbon for us. On this trip, he selected the 3rd and 4th barrels we purchased from Four Roses. Barrel #3 is long gone from our shelves (though we’re still pouring it at The East End!) but there’s still a bit of #4 left. This one-time expression derives its distinctive flavor from the proprietary “F” strain of yeast. They call it the “Herbal” one, and for good reason.

Flavor Profile: Unique and herbaceous. You’ll not find a bourbon like this again. It has a crazy interplay of lavender, thyme, dill, cedar and sandalwood flavors.
Serving Suggestion: Makes one of the best Manhattans we’ve ever had. $59.99

Four Roses Barrel #6 ‘The East End’ OBSV***
100 proof
Selected in April 2017
On our bourbon trail adventure last spring, we decided to select a bottle to commemorate the opening of the new whiskey & wine bar on Wickenden Street – The East End. We tasted through seven barrels of bourbon and finally landed on this expression, given its spicy rye finish and sturdy backbone from older-barrel aging. It’s warm and inviting, and at 100 proof, is perfectly suited to mixing awesome cocktails at the bar.

Flavor Profile: Tried and true. An excellent example at what makes Four Roses so damn good at what they do. This is Bourbon with a capital ‘B’
Serving Suggestions: A workhorse, this bourbon can handle whatever you throw at it – go to town. $44.99

Postscript: What Happens To The Wooden Barrels?

After the distillery bottles the bourbon we’ve selected, they ship us the cases of bottled bourbon with the barrel, still wet inside and soaked with whiskey. Once here in RI, we send them to local breweries to fill with beer, rest for a few weeks, and throw into kegs for The East End. For a truly unique experience, come in for a taste of one of our Four Roses barrels along with Foolproof’s Raincloud Porter aged in the same barrel. Or Elijah Craig, with a barrel aged stout from Grey Sail. We’ll be sure to keep you posted when new barrels and beers are released.

***Deciphering The Four Roses Recipes:

Here’s a handy cheat sheet that will give you a sense of what each bottle of Four Roses will taste like. Keep in mind, though — as readers of last week’s blog post know — that the resulting flavor of each individual bottle will vary based on where within the rickhouse it aged.

1st Letter:
‘O’ = Distilled at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, KY (this letter never changes)

2nd Letter:
‘E’ = Mashbill of 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley
‘B’ = Mashbill of 60% corn, 25% rye, 5% barley

3rd Letter:
‘S’ = Straight Whiskey Distillation (this letter never changes)

4th Letter:
‘K’ = ‘Slight Spice’ yeast strain
‘V’ = ‘Delicate Fruit’ yeast strain
‘O’ = ‘Rich Fruit’ yeast strain
‘Q’ = ‘Floral Essence’ yeast strain
‘F’ = ‘Herbal Notes’ yeast strain

These combinations result in 10 different possible Four Roses recipes: OBSV, OESV, OBSK, OESK, OBSF, OESF, OBSO, OBSQ, and OESQ.

  • All ten recipes are blended to make Four Roses Yellow Label.
  • Four Roses Small Batch is always a blend of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK.
  • Four Roses Single Barrel is always OBSV alone.

Thanks for your interest in our Private Barrel Selections! We’d love to hear what you think!

Cheers!

The Bottles Private Barrel Selections, Part 1

It’s been a busy year in our spirits department, with the team traveling the country, tasting through hundreds of distinctive whiskeys, in search of exquisite, one-of-a-kind barrels good enough to bring home and call our own. This ever-changing collection meets our strict standards for taste and quality, and highlights the skill of each distillery we visit. We are very proud to offer these exceptional bourbons, ryes and malts — all available only in small quantities — and only to our loyal, whiskey-loving friends, family and customers.

But why do we do this?

For those new to whiskey, you may be wondering why we put such effort into bringing these bottles to Rhode Island. To understand, it helps first to know what gives whiskies their distinctive flavors. If you’re a seasoned whiskey lover and the process is old hat to you, skip to the bottom for a look at a few of our exclusive barrels. If you’re new to whiskey, read on.

Distillers start by making a huge batch of whiskey in one giant vat (we’re talking hundreds of gallons – some, thousands of gallons), using one proprietary recipe. Once distilled, the pure liquid spirit is siphoned off into new charred American oak barrels, which are then set to age for 3 – 10+ years in a rickhouse. (That’s a fancy term for the enormous warehouse lined from floor to roof with barrels at various stages in the aging process.) After years of aging, the contents of those barrels — remember, they contain that one recipe — will vary dramatically in taste.

So what accounts for the variations in flavor? It’s all about the aging. It’s all about how long a barrel is aged and where within the rickhouse it matures.

And here’s where your 5th grade science comes in: As a barrel of bourbon warms up in the hot Kentucky summer, the wood expands, drawing the whiskey through its inner charred charcoal surface right into the grain. As fall and winter approach, the wood contracts, forcing the whiskey back out, filtered through the charcoal and oak. This process is repeated for a minimum of 3 years, and all the while the whiskey is evaporating, evolving into a more concentrated version of itself. Naturally, barrels higher up in the rickhouse get hotter, evaporating at an accelerated rate, while those on the lower shelves are cooler, allowing evaporation – and the interplay with the wood – to occur at a slower, less intense rate. The sweet spot for aging is on the middle shelves: the barrels that age there are often considered superior. These variations in where a barrel ages and for how long dictate, in large part, its flavor profile.

After 3 years (the bare minimum for making what can – or should – legally be called bourbon) a master distiller will start to taste the barrels to see how they are developing, and to start determining which barrels will be married together to achieve the specific flavor profile of each of their various labels. For instance: At Heaven Hill, the bourbons in a bottle of their entry-level Evan Williams Black Label are pulled from all over the rickhouse and blended. Their next-level Evan Williams White Label, is made from bourbon that was aged in barrels for slightly longer, thereby coaxing more refined and nuanced flavors from the wood, and then bottled at 100 proof. These are small variations for sure, however they make a world of difference in the final product. At the other end of the spectrum is the Elijah Craig, which is made from barrels that have been aged only in the middle of the rickhouses. This placement results in a softer, more subtle whiskey, with warm baking spice notes on the finish.

The commonality amongst all of the bourbons is the liquid: It’s all the same going into the barrels, but the duration of aging and the location of where the aging is happening is what makes each final bourbon distinct and suited to fit the standard profiles for each different label.

However, because this is a wholly-natural process, there are barrels that every once in a while stand out as exceptional. They are barrels that due to patience, luck, and alchemy, are deemed by the distiller to be too unique to be blended into one of their house labels and are therefore set aside. When we travel to Kentucky to buy bourbon, these are the barrels that we taste and bring back to Rhode Island and call our own. These “snowflake” barrels are of extraordinary quality and are unique expressions that will never be replicated.

If this process intrigues you, we invite you to pick up an “everyday” bottle of these bourbons along with our selections. Try them next to each other at home, either neat, with a splash of water or a cube or two of ice. See what kinds of differences you can spot. We hope you’ll enjoy our selections as much as we do – just don’t fall in love. Once they’re going, they’re gone forever!

Here are three of our newest additions to our Private Barrel collection:


Knob Creek Single Barrel
120 proof 
Selected in April 2017
We selected this amazing barrel out of the 2 million aging in the Jim Beam rickhouses during a trip earlier this year. Among the samples we tried, there were two barrels that had aged right next to each other for the same amount of time. Despite their proximity, these siblings were as different as you are from your brother or sister. The barrel we chose in the end is a pristine example of the caramel and oak notes you get from the finest bourbons.

Flavor Profile: Hot and uncompromising. We don’t know if you can handle this bourbon. It’s like getting socked in the mouth with a nerf ball steeped in bourbon, caramel, dried fruit and more bourbon.
Serving Suggestion: Best tamed with some water or ice. Also suitable for robust cocktails, like a Reanimator or Boulevardier. $34.99

Old Forester Single Barrel
90 proof 
Selected in May 2017
In making this selection we were looking for a bourbon with the classic Old Forester expression: caramel on the verge of burning with just a hint of baking spice on the finish, along with those difficult-to-put-your-finger-on nuances that come with bourbons that have aged longer. After tasting through 3 excellent samples, we chose this single barrel, realizing it hit the nail on the head!

Flavor Profile: Direct and stalwart. A little dark caramel, a little chocolate, a little roasted fruit, a little dusty oak, a little toffee. A little bit of everything in this well-balanced bourbon.
Serving Suggestion: Well suited to fruitier or sweet cocktails. A sour. A Bourbon Bramble. A Julep! $44.99

Elijah Craig Small Batch
94 proof 
Selected in March 2017
We selected this barrel in Rhode Island back in March, based on samples that distiller Heaven Hill sent. Then, in a moment of bourbon kismet during our trip to the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky a month later, we stumbled upon – among the 1.5 million then aging at Heaven Hill – the very barrel we had selected in March! Against staggering odds. But there it was, sitting on the bottling floor, just waiting to be emptied. Unlike the core expression of Elijah Craig Small Batch, the juice from this barrel has a more pronounced oakiness, and less clove on the finish. We prefer it to the “everyday” Elijah, and at this price, it won’t last long!

Flavor Profile: Savory & satisfying. Like a warm cherry pie where the crust is just a little dark in places.
Serving Suggestion: Great on the rocks. More than suitable for any classic Bourbon cocktail $34.99

Tune in next week for a dive into our remaining collection. In the meantime, our entire Private Barrel collection is available at our sister bar, The East End . Stop in for a taste and let us know what you think!

Cheers!