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Taste Test: Single-Barrel Bourbons

American whiskey continues to revel. Most whiskey has been blended from a variety of barrels of different ages, aiming for a precise and consistent flavor. But single-barrel whiskey is precisely what the name implies, with the spirit pulled from a specific barrel, capturing a singular moment. More limited in availability and with variations between bottles due to the very nature of the product, these single-barrel bourbons invite sipping solo to truly appreciate the character and complexity of the spirit.

Blanton’s Original Single Barrel First released in 1984, Blanton’s was the first single-barrel bourbon on the market and remains an exceptional spirit today. The bourbon in each hand-numbered bottle is still pulled from the middle section of warehouse H and bottled at 96 proof. With a deep mahogany hue and sweet aroma of toffee and citrus, the bourbon is velvety smooth with oaky, vanilla flavors and just a hint of spice. $54.99, klwines.com

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage An accessible release in terms of availability and price, the latest Evan Williams Single Barrel was put into oak in 2009 and comes in at just over 86 proof. A spicy aroma underlined by vanilla complements brighter flavors of cherry, apple and orange zest, and a mellow finish. $27.96, astorwines.com

Four Roses Single Barrel Four Roses uses five yeast strains and two mash bills to craft 10 different bourbon recipes, but a single recipe goes into the single-barrel releases, selected by master distiller Brent Elliott. An aroma of sweet pear and baking spice carries through to stone-fruit sweetness. At 100 proof, the initial heat on the palate dissipates into a lingering finish. $35.99, totalwine.com

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Jim Beam has been producing the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve since 2010, with each release having been aged nine years. Bottled at 120 proof, it hovers near cask strength, and the strength amplifies the sweet aromas of burnt sugar. The sweetness carries through on the palate with maple and apricot, but with a dry, oaky finish. $41.99, totalwine.com

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bottled using sourced whiskey (while spirits from the company’s own young distillery mature), the Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon remains a delicious, if limited, offering. Aromas of vanilla and butter- scotch complement sweet maple flavors and an extra spicy finish. $129.99, totalwine.com

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel from Wild Turkey uses the brand’s classic mash bill and carries no age statement, with father-and-son distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell selecting the barrel for each expression. At 110 proof, this bourbon offers bold aromas of orange peel and vanilla that carry through with notes of sweet toffee, citrus and spice, and a remarkably smooth finish. $56.99, totalwine.com

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