Whatever your bourbon of choice, most likely you’ll find a variety called single barrel or single cask. Distillers like those at Knob Creek handpick a single vessel that has presented superbly throughout the aging process to be bottled unadulterated. With a dark amber hue, the nose on the 120 proof Knob Creek Reserve Single Barrel presents big aromas of vanilla and is slightly smoky which carries through on its oaky taste, and finishes strong. These types of notes can be explained by the aging process, where the barrel itself is key.
White oak trees can be found from the Ozarks to the Appalachians and are what coopers use to make bourbon barrels (per Kentucky Living). In fact, according to Vinepair, bourbon must be aged in new oak barrels that have been charred. Aaron Willett of Speyside Cooperage told Kentucky Living, “As seasons change, whiskey is pumped into and out of the barrel’s walls.” This is where the bourbon’s flavor matures.
Most bourbon, including small batch, is made from a combination of several barrels to control consistency, according to Lux Row Distillers. While one barrel may turn out especially good, replicating that specific profile on a large scale isn’t possible. When distillers like Lux Row and Knob Creek pull a thief from a superb barrel to taste and don’t have the heart to bastardize it, that’s when single barrel bourbon hits the bottle.