New England Barrel Company Small Batch Select Bourbon Review - Batch 2021-04
New England Barrel Company continues their world tour in 2023! What started as me meeting up with James Saunders at some of the first stores to get single barrel picks (Redstone Liquors and Gordon's) has quickly snowballed into a company with some serious fans. I've had the great pleasure of selecting two barrels myself for Mass Bourbon Alliance, but the magic really lies in generating blends that can satisfy a seemingly insatiable demand for good bourbon that exists today. Enter small batch select. Blending a few barrels to be able to achieve a cohesive final product is actually much harder than it sounds. Talented tasters will have a field day experimenting in this space, but not everyone really has a knack for it. There are fantastic examples of good blenders out there, but many more examples of blends that just don't quite land.
Today's review features one of the more recent installments of the blending prowess of James. Now let's dive right in to the whiskey itself.
Company on Label: New England Barrel Company
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 70% Corn, 21% Rye, 9% Malted Barley
Age: 4 years
Further identification: Batch 2021-04 comes with a distilled in Kentucky statement which means it was distilled by Green River
Nose: Funky caramel and molasses jump out of the glass upon first lifting it to the nose. Bright sugary tones provide a layer of effervescence in the nose-feel. Crème brûlée and distinct lemon peel layer in over a subtle tea backbone. I love what's going on here so far. Deepening my dive I find my left nostril finding more of those citrus tones as orange zest and light grapefruit join the hot toddy medley. My right nostril harbors most of the spice where cinnamon and sweet bread meet powerfully. Let's jump into a sip.
Returning from a sip I find a volume of funky oak that would easily fool me if I were to try to guess the age on this blind. Much of the same classic caramel and vanilla can be found unevolved here. Consistency can certainly be key for some, but I find this a little unexciting on the nose personally. Late in the glass some great barrel funk returns, nearly touching upon some of the same characteristics that dusty releases quadruple this age statement would elicit. Hints of leather and linen can be found between the creamy vanilla that has settled back into the glass. My now empty glencairn smells of leather, mahogany and a tropical beach. There's a fresh pot of coffee not far away.
Palate: Right away things feel turned up to 11 on the flavor knob. Lemon scone and raspberry tart punch forth before a buttery dinner roll calms the riotous show down. Another sip allows me to dissect much further as coffee bean meets plum and fig in an interesting shimmering standoff of flavors a bit at odds with each other. The linger sits heavy but short in a creamy wave of buttercream frosting, vanilla bean ice cream and pot-still sugar cookie. Fans of Irish whiskey will be right at home with this profile, and there's plenty of corn sweetness to appease the bourbon drinkers as well. This flavor profile is altogether quite unique to this distillate. It's chocolate forward in a way that borders hot espresso, but it ultimately lands closer to tiramisu without as much creaminess. Raspberry skins and amaretto build well late in the glass. The prevalent flavor I can't seem to shake now continues to be that coffee bean from earlier. I wish the glass maintained the lemon forward characteristics it started with, but I'm ultimately still not disappointed in this bottle. My last sip is much of the same with decent cherry heft up front, followed by a wave of caramel & cream, and ultimately finishing in the realm of Irish coffee served on ice. It's a fun profile that I think bucks the norm of modern whiskey, giving a subtle and tasty nod back to distilling days gone by.
(Really good; I want one of these on my shelf.)
Adding a little water to another ounce post-review has unlocked significantly more wood tones on the nose and amplified the caramel and cream flavors. The linger has extended and is now filled with jammy fruit notes. James knows best in this space - it's always fun to experiment with whiskey. These blends are testament to that innovative spirit and I think New England Barrel Company has pulled off some pretty impressive blends with an eclectic array of inputs. If you ever see batch 21-03 just buy it and thank me later. 2021-04 is also a strong hit for the lineup, but not my personal favorite of them all. Hope this review helped. Cheers!