For part 28 of the finished whiskey series I’m finally tackling home finishing. I’ve got 5 different home finished options with 2 from me and 3 from other folks. For a bit of background my wife knows I am a fan of finished whiskies so she got me minibarrel last year so I could try my hand at it.
Grand Old Funk
What is it?: Old Granddad 114 finished in a mini barrel that previously held Rum Fire, an overproof white rum.
Nose: Funky Jamaican rum notes of banana and pineapple with ethanol and oak in the background.
Taste: Bitter oak, lots of funk, warm spices, faint nuts and vanilla.
Finish: Long oaky and funky.
The rum influence definitely makes the OGD114 more interesting and overall this is an improvement even if the added bitterness detracts a bit. I think this spent a little too long in the small barrel with the bitter oak notes on the palate. It’s definitely promising and another crack at it using either a more depleted mini barrel or a shorter finishing could be nice.
Belle Meade Reserve Rum Finish
What is it?: Belle Meade Cask Strength finished in a mini barrel that previously held whatever the cheapest overproof rum Spec’s had that week for 2 weeks.
Nose: A hint of ethanol then lots of oak with some caramel and vanilla.
Taste: Oak, caramel, warm spices and a sort of out of place banana note.
Finish: Medium length finish bananas and caramel.
This answered the question: what if I used a better base bourbon and cheaper rum but finished it for less time? Well it definitely made the Belle Meade worse. I can’t describe it particularly well but the rum and bourbon notes seemed to be clashing as opposed to being integrated with one another. I think it is marginally better than the Grand Old Funk but that was purely from the Belle Meade being better not from the barrel finish, which again made this bourbon worse.
Weller Special Reserve Boulevardier Finish
What is it?: Weller Special Reserve finished in a mini barrel that held rum, then Belle Meade, then two rounds of Bouldevardier cocktails made with 1792 Full Proof for 6 weeks.
Nose: Sweet, almost cloying but not quite, with red fruit, butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon
Taste: Primarily a sort of muted caramel and oak with bits of red fruit and something bitter. Thin mouthfeel though.
Finish: Longer finish than I expected from WSR that pretty much tastes like a Boulevardier cocktail
I had a handle of WSR for some reason and after doing a couple barrel aged cocktails I decided to pour this in there and see what happened. I tasted it every couple days until it stopped improving and this was the result. Overall I am pretty happy with this iteration and I think depleting the oak in a minibarrel first is a good call. Overall I think this added some interesting notes to the WSR and is a nice substitute for an after dinner cocktail. That said it’s nothing special and I would certainly take a High West Double Rye Barrel Select over this any day.
XV Black Edition
What is it?: A super secret blend of Stagg Jr and a wheated bourbon finished in a French Oak mini barrel.
Nose: Rich oak and strong spice notes with something sweet I can’t place underneath
Taste: Lots of oak and lots of spice, definitely not Maker’s Mark notes and some cherry. Great mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium length finish with more oak and spice as well as some of the same sweet notes from the nose.
Overall this was an enjoyable pour but much like the Belle Meade I would of rather had a glass of Stagg Jr. This also suffers from the oak domination that tends to occur with a new mini barrel.
XV Red Edition
What is it?: A super secret blend of Stagg Jr and a wheated bourbon finished in a cherry wood mini barrel.
Nose: Sweet and inviting with dark fruit and vanilla notes.
Taste: Cherry cola, warm spices, sweet caramel and vanilla cream. Great mouthfeel.
Finish: Long and sweet with cherry and caramel notes.
This was the best of the bunch for me. Perhaps a different kind of wood makes a big difference for mini barrel finishing?
That was an experience. Overall I think home finishing spirits is a hit or miss affair but can certainly be a fun thing to do with bottles you aren’t excited to drink. I’m not going to be finishing anything like Belle Meade Cask Strength again but I’ll definitely pour a random bottle that I didn’t care for in there and see what happens. The barrels do tend to get better as they get more use.
On the other hand barrel finishing cocktails at home has been awesome and will certainly stay the primary function of my mini barrel.
TL;DR: Mini barrel finishing is more fun than function for bourbon. It’s great for cocktails.