Review of Barrell Craft Spirits Cask Finish Series: Mizunara


Last year, Barrell Craft Spirits debuted its Cask Finish Series. The first two, released in tandem, were Amburana and A Tale of Two Islands. I reviewed both if you’re interested in checking them out.


The third release, Mizurana, should be available in stores about now.


Mizunara is a native Japanese wood that is challenging wood to work with:


“The oak does not grow straight; it has a high moisture content, and it’s much more porous than other varieties, he says. These issues make the casks prone to leaking. Its name, after all, translates to ‘water oak.’” - Hirotsugu Hayasaka, former head cooper at Nikka


Mizunara cask development was due to European and American oak shortages during World War II. The Japanese looked to their forests to create the required containers. The Japanese coopers returned to European and American oak once the supply chain issues were remedied. However, the memory of how well the whisky aged in Mizunara wood remained.


In more modern times, the Mizunara trees are a protected species. First, the tree must be about 200 years old to be suitable for carving staves. Secondly, the yield of usable wood is meager compared to its European and American counterparts. Thirdly, you can’t harvest a live Mizunara tree; it must be naturally felled.1


Mizurana is a blend of Bourbons from Indiana (aged 6, 7, and 9 years), Kentucky (aged 8 years), and Tennessee (aged 8 and 14 years). The mashbill of the combined Bourbons is 76% corn, 20% rye, and 4% malted barley. Once the blending process was complete, Barrell aged it for a year and a half in Mizuara oak barrels.


Barrell bottles nearly everything (meaning all expressions but one called Foundation) at cask strength, and Mizunara’s is a healthy 58.21% (116.42°). A 750ml package has a suggested price of $89.99.


How does this latest incarnation of Barrell’s whiskey taste? Thankfully, they sent me a sample to #DrinkCurious in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it.


Appearance: I used a Glencairn glass to explore this Bourbon and poured it neat. The whiskey looked like raw honey, leaving a massive rim producing sticky, wide tears.


Nose: I could smell stewed peaches as I brought the glass to my face. Once I could position it beneath my nostrils, I found vanilla, baked apples, and strawberries. As I continued to sniff, the aroma included old leather, corn, and chocolate. Inside my mouth, the air tasted of honey.


Palate: Wow – this Bourbon has an almost arid mouthfeel! Yet, at the same time, it was chewy. The front of my palate encountered an unusual combination of honey, corn, and black licorice. I tasted ginger beer, lime, and tobacco at mid-palate. Spearmint, clove, and oak formed the back.


Finish:  The finish was a spice bomb of clove, ginger, tobacco, spearmint, and dry oak. There was a kiss of lime just before its long, lingering finish crescendoed. The tip of my tongue had a slight tingle.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’ve had a handful of Mizunara-finished whiskeys before, including Bourbon, Scotch, and Japanese. Ain’t none of them tasted (or acted) like this! Spice notes are typical but not dominating like Barrell’s is.


One of the things I appreciate about Barrell is it doesn’t do anything half-assed. The Amburana version was the best of any I’ve tasted. The Tale of Two Islands was in a league of its own. Did Barrell use more Mizunara oak than many other distilleries? Is it because Barrell let it rest for so long? I have no idea, but I can tell you that this is a unique Bourbon worth checking out. I’m happy to have a Bottle in my whiskey library, and I’m certain you’ll want one, too. 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.



1Brad Japhe, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 27, 2022