Lately I've been doing a lot of home distilling– pretty much trying to ferment and make booze out of anything I can get my hands on. Instead of seeing produce and cereal at the grocery store, I see 3 days to white lightning. Not all of the products I've made have been good, actually far from it, but I consider myself an adequate chemist having not made anyone go blind (yet). In any case a happy side effect of this abundance of experimenting is that I feel like my palate for liquor has grown exponentially. Another happy side effect is a lot of random mason jars of booze and a self-satisfaction that comes with knowing I can still get drunk even if the normal supply chain collapses.
The past week I've been drinking this Barrell Batch No. 21 bourbon– it is not cheap but it definitely lives up to it's price tag. It's also cask strength so you're getting a bit more bang for the oz at about 106 proof. I found it really pleasant to drink, and it has a uniquely sweet nose– after the last drop evaporated from the glass the smell left behind was so nice I wish I could get it in a cologne form– like the inside of a really old but clean wood barn. Had a good straight corn flavor with a normal amount of oakiness (just sweeter than normal I thought), and the corn flavor wasn't too overwhelming (like the 114 I'll get to in a minute). For the price it didn't let me down, but I also would not normally spend $90 on a bottle of bourbon. Figured it was a rough week and a treat was in order.
I picked up 2 other bourbons today at the store as well, I haven't had the chance to really sit and get to know these other 2 quite as much as the Barrell but I'm never short on opinions.
The second bourbon in my flight was Michter's US*1, a modestly priced bourbon that weighs in at an easygoing 91.4 proof. It's a fairly well known brand but it can be sometimes sold out in some areas, so, by token of that I guess it must be good? I found it interesting that the 114 talked up it's small grain profile when in my opinion Michter's had the most grain flavor– and a somewhat smoky one at that. I could see a drinker that likes scotch being favorable to this bourbon, but it's not so overpowering it would turn off bourbon drinkers either. Maybe a good compromise if your family is like mine, half bourbon drinkers and half scotch drinkers.
The third bottle I tried was Old Grandad 114, and at 114 proof it definitely packs a punch. I watered down all of these bourbons a bit for tasting in order to open it up a bit and in the case of this 114 make it actually taste-able. Even with it being watered down to the strength of the other 2 it had a very astringent smell and flavor, making it somewhat difficult to select the finer taste notes. The oak certainly hits you in the face, and it's not possible for even the most novice of bourbon drinkers to miss the corn-heavy flavor. I don't know how the only bottle advertising it's grain profile had the least grain-bodied flavor but oh well. My least favorite sad to say because I do like the bonded version of old grandad just fine. That said, for the price and the proof you're getting a great deal if your intention is to get ham-boned!
In conclusion, I'd go back to the Michter's out of this bunch. I'd probably pick the Barrell if money was no object but for the price and the quality I'd go with the Michter's. I can't really in good conscience recommend the OG114 unless you're kind of a masochist when it comes to drinking but to each their own, happy drinking!
Update: Words (meant to say anyone with a nose could detect the corniness in the 114, not the opposite)