Devil's River Barrel Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

During the summer of 2019, I had an opportunity to taste and review Devil’s River Bourbon Whiskey.  The brand had been advertising like crazy on social media, which prompted me to find a pour and see if it was worth it or not. Here is the summation of my review:


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  William Faulkner said, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskey just happens to be better than others.” Yeah, okay, whatever. For me to say that Devil’s River Bourbon is a bad whiskey is an insult to bad whiskey. You will not sin responsibly if you spend $20.00 on it, because this one’s a definite Bust.


Part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is to revisit whiskeys (or brands) you didn’t like in the past. I’ve done this many times, and my mind is changed every so often. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Right.


Today I’m trying the Devil’s River Bourbon Barrel Strength version. It is the same mashbill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It rested in #4 new, charred oak barrels for an indeterminate time and, as such, carries no age statement. The distiller is still Jus-Made/Southwest Bottling. What Devil’s River does differently is they proof it down with water from the namesake’s river.


Devil’s River Barrel Strength is bottled at 117° and retails for $39.99 on its website.  It is available in all but 17 states, and as such, should be pretty easy to get your hands on. Because of my previous experience, I chose to purchase a 50ml taster at a Minneapolis-area liquor store.


Proof definitely can make a difference between good and bad whiskey. The barrel strength version is 27 proof points higher than the original. That’s significant. Will I like this one better? Let’s find out!


Appearance: A bright, gold hue of amber, this Bourbon formed a skinny rim and gave up slow teardrops.


Nose:  The first smell I experienced was cinnamon spice. There was something sweet underneath, almost plum-like, then corn, and, finally, sawdust. As I drew the air into my mouth, I finally picked up the vanilla you’d expect in a Bourbon.


Palate:  An oily, viscous texture greeted my tongue and offered sweet flavors of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. And that was the end of anything sweet.

Do you remember as a kid taking toothpicks and soaking them in liquid cinnamon for a few days? Then, you’d stick one in your mouth, and it would be like fire! You’d watch your friends try to tough it out, but eventually, it would be too much to handle. They’d shed a tear or two. That’s the middle.


The back offered only black pepper and dry oak.


Finish:  Long, spicy, and bitter, the finish featured notes of black pepper, plum, and dry oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: It has been three years since I last tasted Devil’s River. I wasn’t a fan. Additional proof points did make a difference, but they didn’t improve the experience. I don’t like to say this about whiskey; I prefer to give some constructive feedback, but there just isn’t anything nice I can tell, so I won’t. Plain and simple, this is a Bust. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.