Last year, I had a chance to review the 2021 Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Bourbon. It was fantastic dram and showed another facet of what Master Blender Joe Beatrice can do. When Barrell announced the release of 2022 Gray Label Bourbon, I was curious how it would differ; and that it has.
Gray Label Bourbon starts with variously-aged distillates from Indiana (MGP/Ross & Squibb), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam). Whereas the 2021 edition (Release 4) was made of only three mashbills, the 2022 version (Release 5) comprises five. Those mashbills are undisclosed, but they should be familiar regardless due to the sources.
Here’s where things get interesting. After Joe and his team blended the five, they were placed in finishing barrels made from 36-month air-dried staves. But, those weren’t any ordinary staves; they were from barrels that held previous versions of Gray Label Bourbon.
Like all things Barrell, Gray Label is bottled at cask strength which, in this case, is 100.58°. And, like all things Gray Label, it has a suggested price of $249.99. What is unusual is that Release 5 carries no age statement, whereas Releases 1 through 4 were 15 years. I have no insight as to why the age statement was dropped, but it is a curiosity.
Now that this year’s Gray Label Bourbon background is known let’s delve into the unknown and #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I must thank Barrell for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.
Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Gray Label Bourbon presented as burnt umber as it formed a medium rim. Thin droplets formed and slid back to the pool.
Nose: The nose carried a robust fruity fragrance of plum, cherry, pineapple, stewed peach, and apple pie filling. It was accompanied by sweet vanilla and ginger. Inhaling through my lips brought a blast of cherry vanilla ice cream.
Palate: You’d think that at 100°+, this Bourbon would have a punch, and like me, you’d be wrong. I found the texture creamy as the front of my palate plucked ripe melons, plantains, and vanilla cream. Those sweet fruits vanished as the whiskey crossed the middle of my palate. Instead, I tasted nutmeg, coconut, and thick molasses. Those flavors vaporized when my back encountered peanut butter, honey, and oak.
Finish: Clove, oak, peanut butter, and nutmeg stuck to my tongue while black tea and green grape hugged my throat, creating a slow, building finish that, like the palate, hit a crescendo before falling off a cliff.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Barrell has slammed another hit out of the park with Gray Label Bourbon. I loved its complexity on both the nose and palate, how flavors took turns rather than simply melding, the luxurious mouthfeel, and the lovely finish. If I had $250 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d grab a Bottle and walk away thrilled. However, this price eclipses what the average whiskey drinker can spring, and as such, like the other Gray Label whiskeys, my final rating is a Bar. 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.