Typically speaking, I prefer my bourbon neat. No ice, no additional water and certainly no mixers that would mask the flavors of my beloved whiskey. However, in the last decade, classic cocktails have been making a comeback. If you’re a regular of Bourbon & Banter, you’re already well aware of this, as we’ve featured quite a few cocktail recipes. When made properly, a classic cocktail doesn’t mask the flavor of the whiskey, rather, the other ingredients mingle with the whiskey, allowing the mixologist to build an experience that is to be savored, just as a highly trained chef would do with a meal.
Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Whiskey Smashes – these aren’t drinks to be thrown back one after another in an attempt to get smashed (although I suppose you could); these are drinks to be sipped and enjoyed, much like the whiskey used to build them. So, seeing as how we’re talking about whiskey-based cocktails, it was only a matter of time before someone started experimenting with barrel-aged cocktails, which have become the latest trend at bars across the United States – so much so that High West Distillery, based in Park City, Utah, is now shipping bottled versions of their 36th Vote Barreled Manhattan and Barreled Boulevardier, which is the drink I’ll be reviewing here.
Here’s how High West describes The Barreled Boulevardier:
To create the The Barreled Boulevardier, we mix Bourbon with Vya® sweet vermouth and Gran Classico®, a bitter amaro from Switzerland. We marry the mixture in American oak Bourbon barrels where it rests until it reaches perfection. A complex and strong cocktail with a taste bud inspiring interplay between sweet and bitter. Very satisfying.
Age: Aged in used bourbon barrels for 120 days.
How I Drank It: Neat, and later over a spherical ball of ice.
My Nose Noticed: Syrupy sweet with an herbal, aromatic kick; reminiscent of an expensive perfume.
First Sip: Bourbon up front, quickly followed by the sweet vermouth coating my tongue, and then oak and herbal bitterness.
The Finish: As sweet as this drink smells, I was expecting much of that sweetness to linger. Instead I get a lingering taste of bourbon, with just a hint of bitterness from the
Neat, Splash or Rocks: The Barreled Boulevardier tastes great neat, but adding some ice helps cut the syrupy texture while retaining the taste. I didn’t notice any major differences in taste between the two.
Share With: Friends at a dinner party, or just yourself when you get home after a long day.
Worth The Price: At around $50 for a 750ml bottle, the price seemed steep at first; however, taking into account a bar that actually makes a Boulevardier (not even a barrel-aged version) is going to charge in the $10 range for about 3-4 ounces of liquid, you’re saving $10-$30, depending on how much you pour per drink. Also, due to its high alcohol content, The Barreled Boulevardier should keep well in your fridge. If this is a drink you enjoy regularly, it’s definitely worth the price. (Of course, making your own at home and aging them is the cheapest, albeit not the easiest, option.)
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Again, if this is a drink you enjoy regularly, I’d say keep a bottle in stock at home. The savings will add up.