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What is Single Barrel Bourbon? (2024 Updated)

What is Single Barrel Bourbon

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin

All bourbons are aged in barrels, but there’s just something fancy about single barrel bourbons that sets this category apart. But really, what is single barrel bourbon?

Let’s dig deeper and learn about what makes it stand out among other bourbon types. 

About Single Barrel Bourbons

E.H Taylor Single Barrel

There is no legal definition or law regarding single barrel bourbon, but for distilleries, single-barrel bourbon should be finished in one aged barrel only before bottling. Many distilleries often mix multiple barrels after aging to ensure that each batch of your favorite bourbon tastes the same. 

However, a single barrel does not taste the same even if every barrel has the same yeast, key ingredients, and maturation time. Seemingly, there are whiskey lovers more interested in diversification than in consistency, so mainstream single barrel releases have become popular these days.  

Single barrel highlights unique characteristics and influence you cannot find in any particular bourbon.

Some famous single-barrel bourbon bottles are Jack Daniel’s single barrel, Four Roses single barrel bourbon, Russell’s Reserve single barrel, Knob Creek single barrel, Evan Williams, Eagle Rare, and Willett Pot Still Reserve. 

What Makes A Bourbon Single Barrel? 

To make a bourbon single barrel, it should come from an aged single cask and bottled unblended. After its production process, it does not need to be mixed with other matured bourbons to achieve its consistent flavor because it is one of a kind.

A bottle of single cask whiskey contains bourbons from only one barrel, and it can be hard to get your hands on it.

Here’s the reality: there are more or less 220 bottles per barrel which means single barrel releases can command a higher price tag. 

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

How It’s Made

Single barrel bourbons are made like any other bourbons, but their bottling should come from the individual aging barrel. The master distiller will first determine the key ingredients of the single cask bourbon, but it should at least contain 51% corn [1]. 

The base ingredients will be combined and heated before fermentation. It will then undergo double distillation for increased cask strength and purification before aging and bottling.

Mash Bill

Wheat

Single barrel bourbons contain combinations of grains like corn, rye or wheat, and malted barley. Based on the strict law of bourbon production, any bourbon whiskey should contain at least 51% corn. 

There are single casks with rye content on their ingredients, and it lends a more savory, caramel sweet, and spice note to the whiskey.

However, brands that use wheat for a sweeter single barrel line. 

Aging Process

In new charred oak barrels, bourbons should be aged for at least two years, but most bourbons are aged longer. The new charred barrels’ maturation gives single barrels smoky flavor and hints of vanilla and toffee notes.

Also, bourbons are like a solvent, so it leaches pigment and flavor compounds of the oak it’s aged in. The longer it stays inside a barrel, the darker it becomes. 

Where It’s Made

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel

A single barrel should be made anywhere in the United States. There is a common misconception that bourbons should only be made in Kentucky, but various whiskey makers are located in the state. 

Single barrel bourbon whiskey bottles are all American, and since Congress declared bourbons as “American’s Native Spirit,” every bottle has to be made in the USA.

Fun Fact: 95% of the bourbon is made in Kentucky because its temperature and geography are conducive to bourbon whiskey making. 

Compared to Other Bourbon Types  

Compared to Other Bourbon Types 

Standard Bourbon

Standard bourbon whiskey contains 51% corn and other cereal grains like rye, malted barley, and other grains.

It is then mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged into new charred oak barrels for at least two years. 

Unlike a single barrel, standard bourbon is a mix of various barrels. The bourbons are withdrawn from different casks to produce a consistent flavor.

The location of the wood casks in the warehouse can affect the flavor profile of a standard bourbon, so mixing multiple wood casks will guarantee similarity in flavors. 

Read: Nulu Single Barrel Bourbon Price Guide

Small Batch Bourbon

Small Batch Bourbons

There is no legal definition of small-batch bourbon, but it is produced by mixing a small amount of hand-selected single casks to create a unique and rich flavor of spirits. Some distilleries use hundreds of select barrels and label them as a small batch.

Small-batch bourbons can be complicated compared to single barrel bourbons because few single barrels can complement each other.

A small batch may consist of ten selected single barrels, but that can vary from each distillery because some claim to blend fewer barrels or more than ten. 

Read: Small Batch vs Single Barrel Bourbon

Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbons vary, and to be considered a straight bourbon whiskey, there are limited modifications permitted before bottling.

Modifications include batching from different casks, chill filtration or other filtration regimes, and water dilution to reduce but with a minimum of 80 proof. 

In addition, Straight bourbon whiskey must be aged for at least two years, just like single barrel bourbons. 

Read: Top MGP Bourbon Brands Today

Bottled In Bond Bourbon

Bottled In Bond Bourbon

The bottled-in-Bond act aims to regulate the quality of the alcohol and to ensure you are getting real whiskeys.

A bonded bottle of bourbon must be made by one distiller at one American distillery in the same year. It must be aged for four years and packed at 100 proof, unlike a single barrel. 

Read: Online Places To Buy Brother’s Bond Bourbon

Double Barrel Bourbon

Double Barrel bourbon has a clear difference from a single barrel because it uses another barrel after maturation.

Unlike a single barrel stored in one barrel for a certain period, a double barrel is more mellow as it is stored in two barrels for another few months. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is single barrel bourbon expensive?

Single barrel bourbon is expensive because it has limited bottles produced compared to other types of bourbon. A whiskey barrel may produce an average of 130- 220 bottles which is few at the low end.

In fact, there is even a risk of low to no yield for some aged single barrel bourbons. Hence, the premium cost.  

What is special about single barrel bourbon?

Single barrel bourbons come from the individual aging barrel, so it does not need to achieve consistency in flavor and taste.

Every cask strength bourbon produced by a single barrel has a unique but delicious taste you should try. 

What is the difference between single and double barrel bourbon?

The key distinction lies in the aging process; single barrel bourbon is bottled from one specific barrel, resulting in unique flavors, while double barrel bourbon undergoes a secondary aging process in a second barrel, imparting additional complexity and nuances to the final product.

What is the difference between small batch and single barrel bourbon?

While both terms denote limited production, the difference lies in their production scale; small batch bourbon is crafted by blending a relatively small number of carefully selected barrels for consistency, whereas single barrel bourbon is bottled from a solitary barrel, providing a more distinct and individual flavor profile.

Is Jack Daniel’s a single barrel?

Yes, Jack Daniel’s offers a Single Barrel Collection, featuring bourbons carefully selected from individual barrels to showcase unique characteristics, allowing enthusiasts to experience the richness and complexity of a single barrel’s contents.

Is Jack Daniel’s a single barrel whiskey?

Yes, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey is a notable offering, featuring unique expressions drawn from individual barrels, each contributing distinct flavors, aromas, and characteristics to provide a more personalized and distinctive drinking experience.

Which is better double barrel or single barrel?

The preference between double barrel and single barrel bourbons is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences; single barrel bourbons offer a more distinct and singular flavor profile, while double barrel bourbons, with an additional aging step, can provide enhanced complexity and richness, appealing to those seeking layered and nuanced expressions.

How is Scotch different than bourbon?

Several factors distinguish Scotch from bourbon; Scotch is whisky produced in Scotland, typically aged for a minimum of three years, and may include various grains. In contrast, bourbon is an American whiskey, primarily made from corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, and known for its sweeter and fuller-bodied flavor profile, with distinct regulations separating the production standards of the two whiskies.

What is the difference between whiskey and bourbon?

The main distinctions lie in their production processes and geographic origins; while all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskies are bourbon—bourbon, a type of American whiskey, must be made from at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, and produced in the United States, whereas whiskey is a broader category encompassing various styles from different regions.

Is Jack Daniel’s a bourbon?

No, Jack Daniel’s is not classified as a bourbon; it is a Tennessee whiskey, differing from bourbon in that it undergoes an additional filtration process known as the Lincoln County Process, which involves charcoal filtering before aging, imparting a distinctive character to the final product.

Why is bourbon better than whiskey?

The assertion that bourbon is better than whiskey is subjective, as both terms coexist within the same category; however, some enthusiasts appreciate bourbon’s distinct qualities, attributing its perceived superiority to specific production regulations, such as the requirement for at least 51% corn in the mash bill, new charred oak barrel aging, and production within the United States.

Why bourbon is the best whiskey?

Labeling bourbon as the best whiskey is a matter of personal preference; some may favor bourbon for its unique characteristics, including a sweet and full-bodied flavor profile attributed to the predominant use of corn, coupled with the impact of new charred oak barrel aging, creating a rich and well-rounded drinking experience.

Why Jack Daniels is not a bourbon?

Jack Daniel’s is not categorized as a bourbon due to its distinctive production process; although it meets some bourbon criteria, such as being produced in the United States and aged in new charred oak barrels, it undergoes the Lincoln County Process, a charcoal filtering method before aging, setting it apart as a Tennessee whiskey rather than a bourbon.

What bourbon does John Wick drink?

In the John Wick film series, the character is often seen drinking Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, a premium bourbon known for its distinctive packaging featuring a collectible horse stopper and a rich, flavorful profile that aligns with the refined tastes of the fictional hitman.Top of Form

Final Verdict: What Is Single Barrel Bourbon

There is such thing as a bourbon aged in a single barrel before bottling, and it is known as single barrel bourbon.

The single barrel should be pure and not blended with other whiskeys. It can be a marketing strategy for whiskey producers to sell higher-grade bourbons, but one thing is for sure, it has to be labeled true. 

Now that we know what single barrel bourbon is and how it is different from other bourbon types, we can appreciate more of this premium spirit. 

Reference:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/bourbon-whiskey#
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