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Whiskey Lullaby

Single Barrel and Store Picks?

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Whiskey Lullaby

I'm kind of curious what it is that make single barrel bourbons and store picks so desirable? 

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Fishin49er

As far as the single barrel aspect the appeal is that each barrel/bottle could be a little different and the thrill of the chase is finding that honey barrel. With a store pick it's usually the assumption that the store has picked a honey barrel and it should be better then the standard profile. This is not always the case but it's usually a solid gamble.

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Richnimrod
1 hour ago, Whiskey Lullaby said:

I'm kind of curious what it is that make single barrel bourbons and store picks so desirable? 

Single barrel offerings have always been a bit of a gamble; but some brands have been better than others at keeping to a profile; and some, even decent at picking better-than-average barrels (a highly subjective rating, based upon ONLY my personal taste buddies; Yours May Differ) much of the time.

All that said, that was "then"; this is now.    With 'supply' pressure on a great many popular brands, finding single barrels that are even just 'good' has become a dubious proposition for many brands.    I'm not saying you won't find a gem or two once in a while.    What I am saying is this: If you do find a Single Barrel offering that hits you perfectly, don't expect that brand to always taste like that particular one.     You may want to scoop an extra bottle or two, if you do hit a great one.

 

As far as Store Picks, this is always based first upon the palate and decisions of the manager (or tasting panel) of that store being in line with your preferences.   Also, keep in mind, stores need to pick what they can sell, therefor many times they'll pick a barrel that represents what customers expect from that brand... basically not too far from the ordinary shelf stock.    That isn't always the case; but often enough.    Lastly, stores are increasingly asked to take a barrel pick without even selecting it themselves, in order to remain "on the preferred list" to receive limited edition releases.    An abhorrent practice; but such is the reality of doing business in this time of low supply/high demand.    All those cautions aside, if you do find a store that makes picks you find to be in your wheelhouse, I recommend you patronize the hell out of 'em.    ...And, tell 'em why!

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petrel800

Marketing.

 

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2014/02/whats-in-label-undefined-whiskey-terms.html

 

First off, remember "Single Barrel" is not an official term.  We can assume what is meant by "single barrel" when we see it on a bottle, but there are no official definitions in the industry that makes it uniform.  Essentially it is a marketing term not unlike "small batch."  With that out of the way, I have had some really awesome "single barrel" bottles, but I've also had some sub par ones.  There is no guarantee that bourbon that has aged and comes from only one cask is going to be better than multiple casks of bourbons blended together.  So in my opinion, the hype surrounding "single barrels" can be attributed to marketing unless you have tried a certain barrel and you stock up on that particular barrel.

 

Store picks, again are all a marketing deal.  Unless you try the bottle prior to buying or truly get to know the person picking the barrel and the type of profiles they like and/or the things they look for in their selections, all you are buying is a bottle with a sticker on it.  It could have a different profile, it could taste like every other bottle of that brand out there, it could be worse.  In some cases, the store you are buying a pick from may never have tried any samples.  There are some stores that let the distributor handle it all and they just get the bottles with the stickers on them.  Again, in my opinion, this has been good marketing that has lead to the idea that if it is a store pick, it is automatically better than an off the shelf bottle.

 

Now, I will throw a caveat out there.  Typically, your non run of the mill store picks, i.e. - Smooth Ambler Old Scout, 4R BP, WFE . . . etc. is going to be a different experience, mainly because these are typically only available in store pick or Gift Shop form.  That said, there are still no guarantees of exceptional quality, however, even if they are average, they are still a relatively good value for their age and proof (WFE aside, considering these are mainly very expensive gift shop deals these days, but some still find them to be a value for what they are).

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tanstaafl2
22 hours ago, Richnimrod said:

Lastly, stores are increasingly asked to take a barrel pick without even selecting it themselves, in order to remain "on the preferred list" to receive limited edition releases.    An abhorrent practice; but such is the reality of doing business in this time of low supply/high demand.   

There does indeed seem to be more pressure in this direction. The store I frequent and sometimes get to help pick with has so far resisted this practice and we have continued to require options to pick (even if it is sometimes limited to three). Fortunately there are apparently plenty of stores that don't seem to care as much and the reps know we are unlikely to accept such a proposal even if it means less of the LE bottles. So we continue to have at least a few options. So far, anyway.

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fosmith

I recently picked up a few different KC SiB store pics.  Two from K&L and one from Hi Times.  The Hi Times one, to me, tasted pretty much like the regular version.  Fortunately, they didn't charge a premium price for it.  It was $37. The one K&L pic I have open is very different - they claim the barrel was over 13 yo. and it is quite woody on the nose with lots more depth and complexity of flavors.  They charged $50 for it, but it was worth the premium, IMO. 

 

OTOH, for $100, I was rather disappointed in my bottle of KC 25th, a single barrel, cask strength expression. 

 

So, single barrels and store pics can offer something unique and special, but not always.  YMMV. 

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meadeweber
On 2/9/2018 at 1:02 PM, petrel800 said:

 

 

First off, remember "Single Barrel" is not an official term.  We can assume what is meant by "single barrel" when we see it on a bottle, but there are no official definitions in the industry that makes it uniform.  Essentially it is a marketing term not unlike "small batch."  

 

 

I disagree and I think you stretching one argument to cover two different things.  In my opinion, "single barrel" IS unlike "small batch". 

 

You can say small batch is marketing because there is no "official definition" of small.  What is small?  10, 100, 1000?

 

On the other hand, "single" means one.  There is no ambiguity.  Single barrel bourbon comes from one barrel.  I don't know of any examples where this is not the case except in the back of my head I remember someone labeling their bourbon as small batch, single barrel (I can't remember who right now) and I found that odd.

 

For those of you who are wondering why "single barrel" is a big deal it is because many barrels of bourbon have some type of deviation from "perfect" (for lack of a better term) and blending masks or improves these imperfections.  The ASSUMPTION is that if you are bottling a single barrel, it must have few imperfections because there is nowhere for them to hide.  They can't be blended out.  It is typically assumed that the "best" barrels are therefore bottled as single barrels.  This of course, is not always true.

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Fishin49er
1 hour ago, meadeweber said:

 

On the other hand, "single" means one.  There is no ambiguity.  Single barrel bourbon comes from one barrel.  I don't know of any examples where this is not the case except in the back of my head I remember someone labeling their bourbon as small batch, single barrel (I can't remember who right now) and I found that odd.

 

 

Knob Creek 120 does that and I've always wondered why. 

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Richnimrod

My understanding is that if a label calls out the contents as "Single Barrel"; the distillate inside must come from only one barrel of whiskey.  

Small Batch, on the other hand can be almost any number from 2-to-2,000 (or more) barrels, as there is no definition in the regs for Small Batch.

 

The reference to Sm.Batch/Single Barrel made by meadeweber may refer to Wild Turkey's offering of Russel's Reserve, Sm. Batch/Single Barrel, which I understand was just a labeling oversight on their part.     The RR is a small batch offering, and there is also a Single Barrel extension of that brand that is indeed a single barrel offering.

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kevinbrink

Here is where single barrel becomes a bit ambiguous, say I'm a distiller we can call me Bob Glendronach  for the sake of this argument I have aged my Whiskey for long enough to meet the requirements for my category but I plan on finishing in another cask type. Well I start filling the barrel and realize hey there is room in here still and Barrels are expensive so I grab another barrel and fill that secondary cask as high as I can, after I age it in that second barrel for 6-12 months is this a single barrel? What if I am Chris Woodford and I have a cask that springs a leak and I want to save the aging spirit still in the barrel so I spread it over a couple of other aging casks, are those no longer single barrels? Particularly with store picks some labels read single barrel despite the fact that the producer tells the store it's a micro-batch. If I'm buying a Maker's Private Selection, Woodford Double Oak, a finished Belle Meade, etc, I take the single barrel designation with a grain of salt. I do think the average single barrel meets the implied definition but the possibility that there is some fudging in the designation is  certainly there.

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Richnimrod
1 hour ago, kevinbrink said:

Here is where single barrel becomes a bit ambiguous, say I'm a distiller we can call me Bob Glendronach  for the sake of this argument I have aged my Whiskey for long enough to meet the requirements for my category but I plan on finishing in another cask type. Well I start filling the barrel and realize hey there is room in here still and Barrels are expensive so I grab another barrel and fill that secondary cask as high as I can, after I age it in that second barrel for 6-12 months is this a single barrel? What if I am Chris Woodford and I have a cask that springs a leak and I want to save the aging spirit still in the barrel so I spread it over a couple of other aging casks, are those no longer single barrels? Particularly with store picks some labels read single barrel despite the fact that the producer tells the store it's a micro-batch. If I'm buying a Maker's Private Selection, Woodford Double Oak, a finished Belle Meade, etc, I take the single barrel designation with a grain of salt. I do think the average single barrel meets the implied definition but the possibility that there is some fudging in the designation is  certainly there.

Is anyone aware of any major distillery calling a 'finished' Bourbon a "Single Barrel" after placing the contents of several barrels of bourbon into a large Port (or other) used cask???

If not this is a moot point.    The other instances cited by kb seem rather a reach to me; but, I suppose anything MAY happen.... but, again, this becomes an issue only if it's called out on the label as a Single Barrel, when in fact something like kb suggests has occurred.    Does anyone know of such an instance?

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kevinbrink
16 minutes ago, Richnimrod said:

Is anyone aware of any major distillery calling a 'finished' Bourbon a "Single Barrel" after placing the contents of several barrels of bourbon into a large Port (or other) used cask???

If not this is a moot point.    The other instances cited by kb seem rather a reach to me; but, I suppose anything MAY happen.... but, again, this becomes an issue only if it's called out on the label as a Single Barrel, when in fact something like kb suggests has occurred.    Does anyone know of such an instance?

Glendronach did in the Scotch world, in America I don't believe there has been a case of this however it would be interesting to pose the question to distillers who might give a response.

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flahute
1 hour ago, Richnimrod said:

Is anyone aware of any major distillery calling a 'finished' Bourbon a "Single Barrel" after placing the contents of several barrels of bourbon into a large Port (or other) used cask???

If not this is a moot point.    The other instances cited by kb seem rather a reach to me; but, I suppose anything MAY happen.... but, again, this becomes an issue only if it's called out on the label as a Single Barrel, when in fact something like kb suggests has occurred.    Does anyone know of such an instance?

Not quite what you asked for, but here's an example of a batched bourbon being finished in a second new barrel and being called a single barrel.

 

WRDO SiB.jpg

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PaulO

"Double oaked single barrel" seems like an oxymoron.  Also, since Woodford is made by batching whiskey from two different distilleries together; complicates matters even further.

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musekatcher
5 hours ago, PaulO said:

"Double oaked single barrel" seems like an oxymoron.  Also, since Woodford is made by batching whiskey from two different distilleries together; complicates matters even further.

With so many new buyers, at the mercy of clever marketing, we might beware some creative license with advertising:

"Our whiskey is pure single barrel bourbon, selected from the best of our single barrels". Code for batched.

"Our small batch is selected for superior taste and quality, at an affordable value."  Code for thousands, not hundreds of barrels used. 

"We only produce small batch bourbon, for highest quality"  Code for stinker barrels culled and sold under a lesser label. 

Edited by musekatcher

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Richnimrod
8 hours ago, flahute said:

Not quite what you asked for, but here's an example of a batched bourbon being finished in a second new barrel and being called a single barrel.

 

WRDO SiB.jpg

Aha!!!!    I give props to you, my friend.   :)

Not being a WR drinker at all, I was unaware of this iteration.   But, this presents the sort of conundrum discussed by kevinbrink. 

So, I guess there is a 'grey area', or even some deceptive labeling being used by a major Bourbon distiller.    :o

On the subject of scotch I am totally clueless, never having been a fan, nor much of a drinker of scotch (with the exception a few bottles of LaFrog CS).

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tanstaafl2
21 hours ago, Fishin49er said:

Knob Creek 120 does that and I've always wondered why. 

WT also did that for a while with the Russell's Reserve Single Barrel. My impression was that they already had a "small batch" version that also had a line extension that was a single barrel and both terms ended up on the label. Whether it was intentional or an oversight is hard to say. KC is still labeled that way I think but WT no longer say small batch on the newer labels for either the single barrel or the small batch. But in both cases I think it was clear that the single barrel version was intended to mean it was from just that, a single barrel. The smallest "small batch" you can have I suppose...

 

The Woodford example above is indeed a curious one. Almost certainly not all of the whiskey that ends up in that "single barrel" started life in the same barrel since reportedly almost all Woodford is a blend of Woodford and B-F distillate.

18 hours ago, kevinbrink said:

Glendronach did in the Scotch world, in America I don't believe there has been a case of this however it would be interesting to pose the question to distillers who might give a response.

Glendronach did indeed get called out for "consolidating" aged whiskey late in life into a finishing barrel and then labeled it as a single barrel when bottled. I rather doubt they were the only ones doing it though.

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smokinjoe

From the quasi-official “Smokinjoe-I bombed on the LSAT twice so now I sell plastic” rule of law...I find it acceptable for a label to read “Single Barrel” if a batching of barrels of whiskey are then dumped into individual barrels for finishing, and each of those barrels are bottled as individual single barrel bottlings.  

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flahute
7 hours ago, tanstaafl2 said:

The Woodford example above is indeed a curious one. Almost certainly not all of the whiskey that ends up in that "single barrel" started life in the same barrel since reportedly almost all Woodford is a blend of Woodford and B-F distillate.

 

Except for those Double Oaked bottles, there are no single barrels of standard Woodford. Whether they are a blend of Woodford and BF column distilled or all of either, they are always a small batch.

Our group did a "barrel pick" of Woodford which really means you pick from a selection of single barrels which then get batched into pairs of barrels (all the permutations) and you pick the blend you like the best.

Even if you want, they won't let you take a single barrel because they don't sell any single barrels of Woodford and they don't want to dilute the standard product. They are very stubborn about this. We did our pick with Chris Morris so we got all of this info straight from the horses mouth and we tried very hard to get a single barrel. 

So, our pick was the smallest of all batches.

 

The double oaked is most certainly small batch Woodford that gets "finished" in a new oak single barrel.

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musekatcher
6 hours ago, flahute said:

 

The double oaked is most certainly small batch Woodford that gets "finished" in a new oak single barrel.

 

If that's true, that's very disappointing.  I'd expect that from a small upstart, or a ghost label untraceable to a major distillery, but I'd never think of B-F outright misrepresent "single barrel" because batched whiskey came out of a single final barrel:  Heck, all whiskey comes from a single barrel before its mixed, lol.  Whether it goes into another barrel or not.  Kentucky Tavern should add "Single Barrel" to a new label....

 

On the otherhand, I'm not convinced single barrel is superior as a product offering.  You have no way of knowing you got a honey barrel, or a worse-than-batched barrel.  As a result, I'm not attracted to Single Barrel products unless folks here or otherwise convincingly testify its superiority. 

Edited by musekatcher

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Whiskey Lullaby
2 hours ago, musekatcher said:

 

If that's true, that's very disappointing.  I'd expect that from a small upstart, or a ghost label untraceable to a major distillery, but I'd never think of B-F outright misrepresent "single barrel" because batched whiskey came out of a single final barrel:  Heck, all whiskey comes from a single barrel before its mixed, lol.  Whether it goes into another barrel or not.  Kentucky Tavern should add "Single Barrel" to a new label....

 

On the otherhand, I'm not convinced single barrel is superior as a product offering.  You have no way of knowing you got a honey barrel, or a worse-than-batched barrel.  As a result, I'm not attracted to Single Barrel products unless folks here or otherwise convincingly testify its superiority. 

This is why I asked the original question about Single barrels in this post. You can get a good one or a bad one, but with blended, at least there is a standard expectation. 

Now, unless a distillery takes a bunch of barrels, tastes them all and then decides that only the best one’s can be bottled and sold as Single Barrel, and the rest that don’t meet that standard get batched, there’s really no way to know if something Single Barrell is better or not. 

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Paddy
14 hours ago, Whiskey Lullaby said:

 

.....Now, unless a distillery takes a bunch of barrels, tastes them all and then decides that only the best one’s can be bottled and sold as Single Barrel, and the rest that don’t meet that standard get batched, there’s really no way to know if something Single Barrell is better or not. 

Well, that's generally how it works, as they're certainly not using the worst of the lot! :D

 

The difference is that it's a bit easier to discern the various nuances of the individual barrels with a single barrel product, while the various batches tend to blend into a more consistent, albeit sometimes lower, standard. 

 

The single barrel conundrum... some will strike you're sweet spot more than others.;)

Edited by Paddy
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flahute
17 hours ago, musekatcher said:

 

If that's true, that's very disappointing.  I'd expect that from a small upstart, or a ghost label untraceable to a major distillery, but I'd never think of B-F outright misrepresent "single barrel" because batched whiskey came out of a single final barrel: 

Keep in mind that all finished products get batched whiskey put in them. The finishing barrels are expensive so you want to fill them up. When you dump a single barrel you have the evaporation of that barrel to contend with.

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musekatcher
6 hours ago, flahute said:

Keep in mind that all finished products get batched whiskey put in them. The finishing barrels are expensive so you want to fill them up. When you dump a single barrel you have the evaporation of that barrel to contend with.

I'm pretty sure our last single barrel select at the distillery was proofed and bottled from a single barrel.  At least that's what we were sold.  Unless you are addressing "Finished" whiskey.  I agree, "Finished" is a license for lots of liberty with advertising. 

Edited by musekatcher

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Whiskey Lullaby
9 hours ago, Paddy said:

Well, that's generally how it works, as they're certainly not using the worst of the lot! :D

That’s good to know, and makes sense.  Thanks. 

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