What Does Single Barrel Select Mean?

“Single Barrel Select” is a type of bourbon, and in this particular case it’s a brand name of Jack Daniel’s. If you like Jack Daniel’s, you should buy whisky online and try the Single Barrel Select, a progression in the Jack Daniels flavor profile. It’s a bit higher in alcohol (90 proof) with more defined  caramel, oak-spice, and fruitiness. 

But that’s just one example of single barrel whiskies. Is it unusual for bourbon to see barrel ageing? Not at all, all of them are barrel aged.

What is single barrel bourbon? 

It can be a somewhat loose category because no legal definition or regulation exists. In essence, single-barrel whisky (or bourbon) will have been finished in one barrel made from seasoned oak only. This is unusual because distilleries commonly use multiple barrels to ensure consistency of flavor batch after batch. Singe barrel whiskies, therefore, will be unique in their characteristics because each barrel is distinct and after it comes out of that single barrel, the bourbon is never blended.

The barrel, then, is critically important to make this high-end bourbon. With about 220 bottles coming from that single barrel, it’s understandable that single barrel releases command a premium price.

The Bourbon and the Barrel 

The master distiller is in charge of barrel selection. Single barrel bourbons are made from a mix of grains like corn, rye or wheat, and malted barley. The regulations state that bourbon all bourbon whiskey must be made at least 51% from corn. The proportion of other ingredients depends on the master distiller’s desired flavor profile. There are single barrel bourbons made with a greater amount of rye for a savorier flavor with caramel and spice notes. More wheat can mean more sweet flavors. The base ingredients are combined and heated before fermentation. The developing whisky then experiences double distillation for increased cask strength and purification before it hits the barrel. Then it is bottled.

Federal law in the United States says bourbon must be aged in a new, charred American oak container, i.e. the barrel. This is usually a standard 53-gallon American white oak barrel. If it’s a new charred oak barrels, most bourbons will stay there for at least two years; the majority are aged longer. The contact with new charred barrel gives single barrels whiskies smoky flavor and hints of vanilla and toffee notes. These latter two come from natural compounds in the oak wood plus the charring. Pigments leach from the oak into the bourbon; therefore longer aged bourbon are darker in color.

Master distillers are very particular about barrel selection and treatment for special bourbons, including those you’ll find at your liquor store Santa Rosa. This can include extra seasoning outdoors in the cooperage for up to 18 months or grooving the interior of the barrel. One distiller said, “the inside of it looks like a ridged potato chip.” Why? “It adds up to twice as much surface area to inside of the barrel, for greater contact with the ageing bourbon, which will affect flavor, aroma, and color. Charring, too, can vary in intensity, including a “flash char.” The time and temperature involved in toasting the barrel also affects flavor, causing mocha flavors to develop.

Another kind of single barrel whisky is aged in previously-used barrel, like those for rum or wine. These will impart distinct organoleptic properties to the resulting bourbon.

Some well-regarded single-barrel bourbon bottles are, of course, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, but also Four Roses single barrel bourbon, Russell’s Reserve single barrel, Eagle Rare, Knob Creek single barrel, Evan Williams, and Willett Pot Still Reserve.

Double Barrel Whisky

Double Barrel whisky differs from single barrel because another barrel is used after maturation. Unlike a single barrel bourbon matured in one barrel for a period determined by the distiller, a double barrel is mellower. One example is the Heaven's Door Double Barrel Whiskey, a unique blend of three different liquors: two Tennessee whiskeys with a traditional bourbon mash bill, and a straight rye.

What about single barrel whisky California? There’s a lot of creativity occurring in the state, including experimenting with single barrel production.

Single Barrel from Your Liquor Store Santa Rosa: Bottle Barn 

Searching “single barrel” on Bottle Barn’s websites reveals an astounding 67 results! Let’s take a look at a few. 

  • Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is aged in white oak barrel with the deepest No. 4 'alligator' char selected by the master distillers. Individually bottled at 110 proof and non-chill filtered to for superb flavor, as we have learned each barrel has its own unique characteristics yet still always captures rich, creamy toffee and vanilla taste.
  • Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon is Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey aged in barrels made from 18-month-old and air-dried staves. The bottled in Bond release mash bill contains 64% corn, 24% wheat, and 12% malted barley using proprietary yeast strains. This is one of the highest ratios of wheat used in a Bourbon made in Kentucky.
  • The handsome bottle of Lost Republic Single Barrel Rye Whiskey features substantial concentration and intensity. At 58% alcohol the nose wafts with tobacco, clove, toffee & grapefruit aromas. On the palate savor red and white pepper with a heavy finish showing off raspberry and cherry.
These are just three examples of the huge diversity in special, single barrel aged whiskies. The Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey, by the way, layers fine notes of caramel and spice with a hint of bright fruit. The sweet aromatics include banana bread, caramel, and that characteristic heavily toasted oak.

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