Being in the booze industry tends to have some unique perks. Once in a while you are afforded an opportunity to experience something pretty rare and interesting in the wine and spirits world. Case and point, last week we were able to partake in the selection of our very own barrel of bourbon.
Doing private barrel selections isn’t exactly a new thing at Caputi’s Wine & Liquor, as we’ve done dozens over the past few years. This one was a little different, however, as we were invited to make the selection on site at the distillery. So, last week five self-proclaimed “bourbon nerds” piled into a van and headed south to Kentucky to spend a couple days in the heart of bourbon country touring distilleries and ultimately selecting our next private barrel offering which will eventually be available to our devout whiskey loving customers. Along with Vinny and I were three employees from Gates Circle Wine & Liquor who were also making a barrel selection.
Since this is a process that is usually reserved for us industry insiders, we wanted to document as much of it as possible so some of you could partake vicariously through pictures and descriptions. So, unless you were one of our lucky panel of twenty whiskey club members who tasted and voted on our last Knob Creek Single Barrel offering, here’s a look at how the selection process actually works.
For starters, this barrel selection was from one of our favorite distilleries: Four Roses. This is the third barrel selection we’ve done with them and many of our club members and customers have probably tried our previous picks. Four Roses is one of the prettiest distilleries in Kentucky, a slice of Spanish-mission style architecture not often seen in the middle of horse country. For this selection, we actually went to their bottling and aging warehouse facility south of Louisville in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky.
On this hot summer day, we were ushered into a private tasting room on site where we were greeted by six barrels all laid side by side.These were the six barrels that we would be sampling and selecting from.
Before the tasting we were given a private tour of the facility, seeing the bottling line, dumping area, and the one story rickhouses that are unique to Four Roses. Our all-access peek was guided by the regional sales manager Dan Gardner.
After the tour it was time to get down to business. Back to the tasting room, Dan used a device called a “thief” to pull samples of the whiskey directly from each of the six barrels, and one at a time we filled our glasses.
After all six glasses were full we sat down to the enviable task of tasting them all, rating them, and making our selection. For those of you that know about Four Roses, they do things a bit differently using a combination of 10 different mashbills or recipes. A Combination of five different yeast strains and 2 different grain proportions for a combination of ten total variations. To read more about this click http://fourrosesbourbon.com/four-roses-bourbon-infographic/. The barrels available for us to choose from were a variety of different recipes.
After much deliberation, we made our selection. Although they were all great, and we felt there was no wrong choice, we agreed on Barrel #4, an OESK recipe bourbon. From the beginning there were two barrels that stood out to the majority of us tasting. We took note of Barrel #4 from the onset, as it had the best nose of the bunch. After trying them all it seemed extremely well balanced. Moving from the sweet caramel and vanilla notes at the front of the palate to some fruity cherry mid palate, and it finished with mild oakiness that lingered in a good way.
Unpredictably, our barrel was one of the youngest bourbons in the tasting. They didn’t give out the ages of the whiskies until after the selection was concluded so we wouldn’t form any bias before picking. We were surprised to learn that this one was only 8 years, 8 months old. We were also told that the OESK barrels are now few and far between due to the demand on production for their small batch releases, which use the OESK recipe in combination with 3 other recipes.
After we made our selection, we signed our barrel and left it in the hands of the good people at Four Roses where it will continue to age and mature until the fall when it will be bottled and sent to the store for retail.
Cheers. Can’t wait for you guys to try our selection. We hope you like it as much as we did.