Bourbon: Thinking outside the barrel

21 August, 2018

By way of example, Mash steakhouse in London has just bought a barrel of Jefferson’s bourbon, which will be available in house serves with the actual barrel it was aged in on display at the back of the bar. House beers, wines and spirits are no new thing but buying something unique directly from a brand is, especially 36 cases of it.

Russell adds: “This trend makes perfect sense to me. If you come to our distillery and I take you into a warehouse to taste six or seven barrels, you would definitely taste the difference, even if they’re the same age and on the same floor. I love that but my dad’s generation didn’t, they wanted to blend for consistency and I’m more interested in how single barrels can offer such varying qualities.”

Maker’s Mark is another Kentucky straight bourbon producer thinking ahead of the game with its Private Select range.

Beginning as fully matured Maker’s Mark at cask strength, expressions of Private Select are created by adding 10 finishing staves to each barrel. The staves can be any combination of five flavour profiles, giving, says the company, 1,000 possible stave orders, which can be chosen by the customer.

Launching in the UK later this year, Maker’s Mark Private Select is bringing consumers closer to the production of whiskey and allows them to gain individuality from their purchase.

One surprising innovation comes from Basil Hayden’s. The premium whiskey produced by Jim Beam recently launched a Dark Rye variety, which blends rye whiskey with port. This creates a totally different product without the need for further ageing in order to achieve a different flavour profile to any other whiskey after just two years in a rick house.

Although these glimpses of innovation are overdue, they are positive. There’s no denying the category was slow to respond to growing international demand but a solution is close. The race to create Kentucky’s iBarrel 2.0 is on.

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