You may remember a few other Exceptional Series barrels that have come across my desk... This release is not the same as those Kentucky Straight Malt barrels. A straight bourbon fit for this label clearly has to have had something special in the barrel for Pete and Pablo to have given it this distinction. The qualification for such "rare character" if you will, comes from the brand's mission:
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.
There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with that distinction, given every exceptional release that I've tried from them thus far has blown me away. There's just always this incredibly high bar of quality that rarely gets reached in today's market of getting massive volumes out the door to meet the huge demand of today's whiskey enthusiasts. Sometimes it's nice to just have your little slice of heaven - even if that's only one bottle from a single barrel. As for why Joel decided to pick this barrel for Life of Luxe, he offered the simple satisfaction that "this barrel took me back to the days before all the hype and craziness of bourbon". I can definitely appreciate that. I've tried this pick now 3 times prior, so I'm ready to give it an honest review based on that triangulation of experiences. Let's jump in.
Company on Label: Rare Character Whiskey Co.
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed Kentucky Straight Bourbon Mash
Age: 9 years
Further identification: Barrel E-KB-06 was distilled and aged in Kentucky from October 2013 until being bottled in December 2022 when it was selected by Life of Luxe under the label "Edition 1"; it bears art depicting the Hollywood sign, designed by Roxanna Moix
Nose: Caramel nougat bars jump out of the glass first for me. It's immediately incredibly wood-forward for a 9 year; I find myself feeling like I'm in a woodshop on deep inhales. Everything from the start here feels deep, dark and rich. Leather notes & a crispy textured vanilla like a crunchy wafer are quite pronounced. Cherry skins burst forth before pausing for a strong wave of barrel funk to pass by. Something in here reminds me of 1980s upholstery fabric... like that thick, coarse couch material that absorbed absolutely everything from its environment. Ultimately I think this parallel is a good thing here, as it tells me that this pour has deep, enjoyable layers. As I snap out of nostalgia land I find myself back amongst layers of milk chocolate and tiramisu. Let's jump into a sip before we get too lost in this glass.
Coming back from a sip unleashes new depths of creamy vanilla. Hints of graham cracker and marshmallow give me that classic aroma akin to some of Michter's earliest sourced releases. Deep inhales near the bottom of the glass remind me of muddy boots after a long day out fishing in the rain. The empty glass smells of a wet, verdant forest and elegant crème brûlée cordials.
Palate: Mmm. My first sip goes off like a stick of dynamite. Dark cola notes are pervasive in a bubbly, dark mouthfeel. Milk chocolate, molasses and heavy malt tones all bury in the taste buds in delight. Another sip shows off vanilla bean ice cream, cinnamon, graham cracker and a slight earthiness that is building slowly. Overall the sip is quite creamy with soft undulations of something a bit savory too. At every turn there's something that raises an eyebrow. Clay notes like some dusty whiskeys will produce lead me into a long chew producing barbecue sauce, tangy tomato and a dark tobacco that somehow jives completely. Always the sip returns to its strong roots of vanilla and level oak. A long sip and swish as the glass nears empty produces notes of cherry skins, raspberry tart and a creamy cigar. My last sip is a soft farewell of semi-sweet honey and orange cream soda. The finish is long & soft with notes of vanilla glazed scones, buttery pâte à choux, and elderflower liqueur.
TL;DR: Infinitely complex vanilla bean // vintage whiskey
This is just an absolute classic bourbon supremely fitting for National Bourbon Day. This pour was a wonderful collision between nostalgia and elegance. While it doesn't quite have the same head-turning reaction as the malt barrels, it really rewards the patient whiskey enthusiast with a wonderful evolution of enjoyable aromas and flavors from start to finish. I spent the better part of 3 hours with this singular pour, and I'm thoroughly satisfied with the trip I just went on. It sparked so many visceral thoughts and memories and that is the magic of bourbon that has captivated me for years. Not many pours cut through the veil like that, but I'm sure glad for the experiences in which they do. Cheers my friends!