Thursday, August 19, 2010

Single Barrels, I want to see more.

Recently, the liquor store I work for, Westside Liquor in Central Minnesota, purchased a single barrel of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. For those who aren't familiar with the idea of a single barrel, what it means is that instead of getting bottles of booze that have been blended with booze from the dozens or hundreds of barrels from that distilling, it's just one (theoretically better than average) barrel. I think this is great.

Buffalo Trace is Sazerac's "small scale" distillery where they use smaller batches and stills to produce some of the more artisan names they've acquired over the years such as Elmer T. Lee, Eagle Rare and George T. Stagg. Really phenomenal bourbon. And the flagship brand, Buffalo Trace is a really phenomenal bourbon for the price, generally between $20 and $25 for 750 ml (the single barrel is the same cost as the regular). If you drink bourbon/whiskey/whisky/scotch you should really check it out. The Single Barrel that was selected from a pool of 5 by Westside is a bit more robust and rounded than the average, and I believe a bit more potent. But the regular is plenty good.

This single barrel purchase (it was around 20 cases of 750 mL we had to purchase) and another, of 9 yo Knob Creek has been very successful, and the store is looking at purchasing a barrel of Basil Haden, another store favorite.

I would like to see more single barrels though, not just in our store, but everywhere, and of everything. I'd like to see a Single Barrel Congnac from Bache Gabrielson. I'd like to see a Single Barrel Rum of Rum from Kilo Kai. I'd like to see a Single Barrel of Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island. What? Yes. If breweries, especially those with impressive barrel houses like Goose Island, would release (on contract or at will) some single barrel bottlings of beers it would put an interesting spin on the whale hunting that goes on. Those looking for those "oh so rare" beers would try and track down just those single barrels, leaving more of the still amazing things for the rest of us. Or, those single barrels might be mixed in with normal distribution, allowing more people to try an amazing product.

I realize, of course, that you can't go too crazy with single barrels. You need those really good ones to balance out those really bad ones that you will inevitably get. But if more brands in general did this it would still benefit the general bourbon/brandy/beer drinking public's taste buds without impacting the general quality of any given brand, and it might make people strike out more into other brands to boot.

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