By Richard Thomas
As I have been working through the Broken Barrel line-up for The Whiskey Reviewer bit by bit these last months, only a brief recap of who these folks are is necessary. Drawing on sourced whiskey made in Owensboro, Kentucky, Broken Barrel then adapts stave bits from other casks (ex-bourbon barrels, new French oak and Sherry casks for the most part) for insertion into the existing barrel. The process is similar to what Maker’s Mark has developed out of their Maker’s 46 expression for use in their private barrel program.
For their California Oak bourbon, Broken Barrel reaches to the West Coast for most of their “Oak Bill” of finishing inserts, using 80% central coast Cabernet staves and 20% new French oak staves. French oak being much more popular with winemakers than whiskey companies, choosing it fits the theme nicely. The bourbon coming out the other side of that was bottled at 88 proof.
Befitting its youth and relatively low proof, the whiskey has a light amber appearance in the glass. I found the nose carried vanilla on the one hand, and cut straw and wood on the other. It tasted, however, of candy corn, vanilla, and a potent spicy current. The finish ran short, crisp and spicy. Overall, it’s a fair acquisition for fans of the high rye, spicy bourbons; I am not saying it comes from a high rye mash bill, but the finish gives it a kick such folks should appreciate.
Expect to pay $33 per bottle, which is pretty inexpensive nowadays.