New England Barrel Company... By now you've heard of them. James Saunders has been making big waves in the whiskey world by bringing a really great palate to the whiskey sourcing table. James does all the hard work of filtering in good barrels to his brand and then passes the easiest next job over to groups like Mass Bourbon Alliance which I co-founded with my good friend Derek Laverriere (@bourbondipity_ on IG) to pick great barrels of whiskey and bring them to Massachusetts folks. Well - this is one such barrel! You might have seen we also have a Stouted Bourbon coming if you are following our Facebook page (locals only please).
We had an absolute blast picking this barrel and really feel like James put out some of his best stuff for us to taste through. I'd love to live in his barrel room; if you get the chance to go up and see it, it's worth the trip. Now - let's see why we picked this barrel!
Company on Label: New England Barrel Company
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Age: 6 years
Further identification: This is a single barrel select that I helped pick onsite at NEBCo in New Hampshire; it comes from Barrel # 16-13 and we are thrilled to be working with Liquor Junction as our retail partner for Massachusetts distribution coming soon
Nose: Lovely vanilla sweetness from the first nosing; it smells lightly sugary like a candy cigarette. Hefty, creamy caramel wafts off the surface of the glass which immediately shapes my lips closer to a smile than I was intending. I normally get more of this creamy feeling from the 36% rye mash bill from MGP, but this one is doing it incredibly well at 21% just the same. Cherry skins pop brightly in the background as this continues to push forth wave after wave of confectioners sugar, light maple syrup and a great level oak. Now it's time for a sip.
Coming back the oak intensifies nicely, but not to a point of contention. Baking spice and more confectionary concoctions float off the glass. I get a rich creaminess that is reminiscent of a rum barrel finish but shows off more like a delicious homemade vanilla pudding smell. Oooh, when you really inhale deeply to dig deep in the glass the oak spices are on full display which is really interesting because they are otherwise quite subdued by the surface sweets. Overall the nose feels fairly complex for the age which is always refreshing. I do think this is a point that James is trying to make in a lot of his barrels and blends - good whiskey does not need high age statements! The liquid here really does speak for itself in that regard. Overall I mainly get that perfect blend of cherry, oak and caramel that reminds me of everything that I expect a good bourbon profile to be. As the glass gets closer to empty I get one of my all-time favorite bourbon notes: marshmallow! As it intertwines with the fruit sweetness I get the impression of a orange creamsicle, or perhaps a strawberry rum cake. The empty glass smells of peach cobbler, milk chocolate, dry oak, and vanilla custard cake.
Palate: Immediate flashes of cherry syrup, grenadine, plum and raisin from the get go. I'm impressed by the combination of the intensity of the flavorful sweetness and the overall approachability of this sip. The linger is long and there's a rich coating of lemon tea, orange sherbert, and a soft linger of dark chocolate. Another sip builds in sweet tarts, a soft expressed twist of orange peel, and angostura bitters. Coming back after some time I get a nice flourish of cinnamon that almost attempts to be hot, but ends up just coming across as sweet again as strawberry lemon blondies sit delectably in the middle of my tongue. A larger sip and swish shows off the sweets once again without ever getting too hot for the palate; this proof point is hitting the spot tonight. Overall I'm quite satisfied with a balanced and complex sip that does all of your traditional bourbon notes and then some. I'm most impressed with the fruit and vanilla balance; the notes feel incredibly intertwined that experiencing them together feels like watching a well choreographed dance. My last sip is orange peel zesty with really distinct sweet tea characteristics. The linger is a long roaring wave of buttercream frosting, marmalade, and lovely maraschino cherries.
Bonus review from Brittany!
Nose: Light on the nose. Caramel toffee. Bright citrus. Mildly floral if you dig deep.
Palate: More of that caramel toffee (candy-like) from the nose with a back end spice; there's a really nice linger. As it sits on my tongue the more citrus and floral notes arise. Now tasting a bit of chocolatey, oaky leather as I inhale. It would be delightful to enjoy on a warm Spring day. It's light and bright - really pleasant to drink.
Rating: Two thumbs way up!
That was some really high praise from Brittany up there who doesn't go crazy for many bourbons! As for my review, only having done one tasting, and having a lot of personal hype and bias keeps me from scoring this in my traditional way (1-5, check out the review page for what the scores mean to me) but I really do think that this is some exceptional whiskey. You are really going to want to grab at least one of these alongside the Stouted Bourbon! I'm going to be revisiting a glass of that Stouted tonight too to see if anything has changed for me from my last review. Keep your eyes peeled for release information from @MassBourbonAlliance and @liquorjunction. Cheers folks!