Barrell "Foundation" Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Have you heard of Barrell Craft Spirits? It is a blending house that does fantastic things with whiskey and rum. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, everything Barrell produces is unique and at cask strength.


Um, scratch that. Everything Barrell produced was at cask strength until now. Its newest Bourbon is called Barrell Foundation. It is the brand’s first whiskey proofed to 50% ABV (100°).


“Barrell Foundation is a delicious and easy drinking bourbon whiskey with all the flavor of a cask strength bourbon whiskey at 100-proof. We believe that a true art form in bourbon-making is the ability to produce bourbon whiskey that can be enjoyed by everyone, and we welcomed the challenge to show that we can produce great bourbon whiskey at a more approachable strength and price for all occasions. For 10 years we’ve led the blending movement in the U.S. and now welcome this exciting opportunity to be a trailblazer of an entirely different style of bourbon whiskey.”Joe Beatrice, founder


Barrell Foundation is a blend of 8-year-old Kentucky Bourbons, 5-, 6-, and 9-year Indiana Bourbons, 8-year-old Tennessee Bourbons, and 5- and 6-year Maryland Bourbons. Its mashbill is 73% corn, 23% rye, and 4% malted barley. Barrell Foundation is sold in a 750ml package with a suggested price of $59.99. Its initial distribution is in Arizona, California, Washington DC, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Texas and Washington. Come January, it should be available nationwide.


In complete transparency, half of me is bummed. One of the things that makes Barrell’s stuff magical is everything is consistently delivered uncut; its philosophy has always been that the whiskey drinker should determine the whiskey’s best proof. But the other half has that #DrinkCurious attitude, which excites me. Knowing the strict standards that Joe and his team abide by, certainly, they’ve vetted several proofs before settling on 100°, right?


Regardless of how this turns out, I respect when a brand takes a risk by doing something entirely out of its wheelhouse. And I thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Let’s see how Joe and the rest of the team did.


Appearance: I poured this Bourbon into my Glencairn glass and sipped it neat. The liquid inside was the color of caramel and slightly murky. The microthin rim formed lightning-fast tears.  


Nose: I smelled pecans, cinnamon, toffee, and thick caramel. When I drew the air through my lips, I found orange peel and a smidge of chocolate.


Palate: Barrell Foundation’s texture was oily, and had a medium body. The front of my palate encountered leather, caramel, and milk chocolate. I tasted cherries, pecans, and tobacco as it moved to the middle. Flavors of rye and cinnamon spices melded with dry oak and clove on the back.  


Finish: The finish featured cherries, caramel, pecans, leather, oak, cinnamon and rye spices, and clove. It started as somewhat sweet and quickly transformed to warm and spicy. The duration was medium to long, with dry leather holding the longest.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Barrell Foundation was undoubtedly different from any of its siblings, even with similar mashbills and originating distilleries. 100° is a fine strength for a plethora of Bourbons – it carries enough flavor to hold its own in most cocktails yet can be enjoyed neat by most whiskey drinkers.


Part of my job as a reviewer is to be unbiased and approach everything as a new and unique opportunity. In (again) full disclosure, my first go-around with Barrell Foundation, I caught myself comparing it to other Barrell’s Bourbon releases. That’s unfair and a mistake, as today’s pour is purposefully designed to be different. I put this whiskey aside for a few hours and then tried again.


Is Barrell Foundation reasonably priced? Yes. Is it good? Also, yes. I believe Joe and his team took on a huge risk, which seems to have paid off. Barrell Foundation will appeal to the larger demographic it has targeted without alienating its base. That translates to a deserved Bottle rating. 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 to do so responsibly.