top of page

Rare Character Exceptional Series 14 Year Single Barrel Malt Whiskey Review - Barrel E-M14-54

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Rare Character Exceptional Series 14 Year Malt Whiskey Single Barrel 54

The Exceptional Series from Rare Character will be sweeping across the whiskey world like wildfire here soon. Based on what I am seeing in the community, I'd expect demand to far exceed the limited supply available on these. With barrels ranging from 8-14 years getting ready to hit glasses across the US, I can't help but be thankful for the time spent picking barrels with Pablo Moix and Peter Nevenglosky where we locked down 5 incredible barrels for Mass Bourbon Alliance & Liquor Junction. Two of those barrels came from the Exceptional Series - hand selected barrels of exceeding quality that Pete and Pablo want to share with the world. The 95/5 rye that preceded this release is completely sold through, further testament to the growing hype and demand around this brand.

Partnering and picking barrels with Rare Character was a no-brainer for Mass Bourbon Alliance; our mission statement is to bring exceptional whiskey to our friends here in Massachusetts. The Exceptional Series completely embodies that mission, so when two 14 year malt whiskeys presented as 'Staggy' first hit our palates, I don't think we could cough out 'yes' fast enough. Rare Character self describes these releases on their website, saying:

The Exceptional Series from Rare Character exemplifies the driving mission of our brand: to release the most distinguished and highest quality whiskeys we can possibly source. While our Single Barrel Series is focused on customization and creativity, this new series is focused on curation and exceptional craftsmanship. These spirits are truly unique; they’re even older and more scarcely available than the rest of our offerings. Every bottle released through this series is at least 9 years old, and is of exceptionally Rare Character.

You may have actually already seen some incredible reviews of this barrel. This was in fact the exact barrel that ranked up at #2 on the UPROXX 30 best American whiskeys list for 2022, only getting beat out by the 4 thousand dollar Drew Mayville Last Drop blend. This really is an incredible feat in an interesting new market as an insatiable horde of whiskey enthusiasts continue to want to explore new flavors, but take with them incredibly high expectations from the bourbon world. I'm sure the bourbon purists may turn their nose at the idea of trying a 65% malt, but I have to say this really does drink a lot like a bourbon. Perhaps it is the barrel of choice as well as aging location, or Pablo is just the great filter that only lets high quality through to end glasses. More on that later...

I know details are incredibly important for the analytical types like myself. I'm always searching for correlations and knowledge that help inform in future reviews. Rare Character has been amazing on that front, being as transparent as they can with barrel details. As for the source of this whiskey - we may never know. As the bottle only says distilled and aged in Kentucky we can't narrow down by town or county and I'm sure there are agreements or NDAs in place that disallow the sharing of certain information which is fairly commonplace in the whiskey sourcing business. As an enthusiast with a yearning for being absolutely complete in everything that I do, I took a look around for this interesting 65% malt, 35% corn mash bill. The only thing I could turn up happened to be the Parker's Heritage Malt whiskey mash bill. Since I never got to try that 2015 release I'll only be able to speculate myself, but it's an interesting parallel. Heaven Hill is located in Kentucky... and those timelines roughly add up (2015 release 8 year malt would have had to be distilled in 2007, just one year prior to the barrel before us today). Regardless of the source, Rare Character manages to bring a little bit of Portugal sunshine to snowy Massachusetts at a time when I'm daily dreaming of my next trip to Kentucky.

Rare Character Exceptional Series 14 Year Malt Whiskey Single Barrel 54 Artwork
Pablo's wife helps brainstorm the label artwork that adorns these releases; this artwork, I'm told, is inspired by Portugal.

Despite having picked this barrel myself, I will always try to speak honestly about whiskey and my experiences with it. Now let's stop rambling and start tasting already!


Company on Label: Rare Character Whiskey Co.

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Malt Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: 65% Malt, 35% Corn

Proof: 134.88°

Age: 14 years

Further identification: Barrel E-M14-54 has a distilled in Kentucky age statement, an aged in Kentucky statement, an aged in new charred oak statement (important for bourbon drinkers), and Rare Character is listed as the bottling company; this whiskey was distilled in May of 2008 and bottled in December of 2022; expect this to land at Liquor Junction in very limited numbers soon as most of the barrel was presold


Nose: Prevalent sweetness could be smelled from afar as I carried this glass to my desk. Upon first dipping my nose into the glencairn before me I find beautiful, crystal clear, creamy tiramisu. I instantly am aware of a new hunger in my stomach because of this aroma. Graham cracker, baker's chocolate and gourmet patisserie notes come through clear and delicious. Molasses, caramel and butterscotch all blend mercilessly in the chef's mixing bowl ready to cast its golden glow over some rich dessert. I'm tortured by the delicate confections at work these aromas; everything presented thus far has exuded elegance and delectability. A hint of linen among all the creamy, buttery tones reminds me of 2020 George T Stagg. Disturbing the well-rested glass with a light swirl unleashes lovely new tones of baking spice: black pepper, crushed cinnamon stick and a spike of clove poked into tart, fleeting plum. A funky floral bouquet blooms in the background. The markings of plain oak are nowhere to be found, though the byproducts of exceptional age are there in leather and marshmallow. The continuous undertone present all throughout is an incredibly creamy and fluffy vanilla frosting. Let's jump into a sip.

Returning from a sip adds some further complexity to the chocolate tones from earlier. I now find some darker ground coffee bean and earthy tones like macadamia nut and patchouli. The earthy tones start steering things a little more savory than before; the tiramisu evolving into something more like sea salt modjeskas. It's still quite delicious all throughout and I again am keenly aware of a strong hunger brewing. The indomitable will of this glass never lets the volume knob slip here as delicious aromas continue to pour out of the opening of my glencairn. At times this slightly woody, slightly earthy creamy marshmallow seems to be a 'one trick pony' as it often settles back on this profile, but I'd be remiss if I allowed myself to understate just how delicious and unique that aroma is. Deep inhales show off sharper and darker notes of cola as the glass begins to wane towards empty. The now whiskey-less glass smells like a charcoal barbecue from afar, honey mousse, gingersnap cookie, gunmetal, and rich cheesecake.

Palate: My first sip is an incredible explosion of zesty fruit that were completely hidden on the early nose. Juicy plum and raspberry tart set the stage before orange peel crashes through into cherry skins in a cacophony of beauty and might. Cinnamon sizzles on the top of the tongue as sultry red wine soaks up any possible discomfort. Another sip amplifies the red fruit, increasing the stock of crushed red grapes and building in darker fig notes. A longer sip and swish produces lovely vanilla flavors up front before a berry parfait settles comfortably on the tongue. As the glass sits longer an exceptional evolution occurs as nuances of some ultra-aged Armagnac sneak onto my senses. Pecan and praline ebb in at times. Every sip hangs on the tongue like a full feature film. Lemondrops show off a really interesting citrus side that although seems out of place with the other flavors, ultimately come in at a welcome time as this evolves like a steeping and cooling cup of tea. I could sit with this glass all day. Later in the pour the sinusoidal undulations of a complete evolution swing me back to a world of baking spice as tarragon, caraway, nutmeg and allspice culminate in an excellently layered medley carried off by fluffy pound cake. My last sip is right in line with the rest of the glass: penultimately delicious. Both thoroughly worthy of savoring and impossibly approachable given the proof... I'm sent off with a beautiful array of stone fruit and honey that lingers long into overtime leaving me longing for more.


Rating: Drool-worthy

This is just divine. 'Staggy' is somehow an understatement for this barrel as I find more unique yet exceptional characteristics than even that release can produce. I really hope you get the chance to try this one for yourself. Rare Character manages to bring an eclectic energy to the table here and ultimately delivers a whiskey for the record books. Tasting back through this I am even more impressed than when I first sipped the sample with Pete and Pablo. This one is definitely going to leave an indelible mark on the whiskey world for a long time.

For those who may be new to the site, I try my best to never let bias creep into my reviews. In an effort to stay on top of that I elect to not give my typical numerical score to anything that I personally had a hand in selecting. For scoring this release in particular, I'll let other experts chime in... Though you can probably imagine what my score might be!

@bourbonboot mentions in his review:

There is no world where this does not make my top whiskey list for 2023. It could very well be the number one spot, and it's only April. If you like to explore the world of whiskey and what different flavor profiles are out there, you need to have this on your shelf.


Uproxx Rare Character Exceptional Series 14 Year Malt Barrel 54 Review

A snippet from the UPROXX article by Zach Johnston is pictured above.


I hope this review captured some amount of information that you were looking for. If it did, make sure to drop me a comment down below as I always look forward to connecting with folks in the whiskey world. Cheers!



bottom of page