One is the Loneliest Number

One is a lonely number, and oftentimes a group can do things better than one.  Of course there is the exception here and there,  like you wouldn’t want two NFL Head Coaches on a team.  Can you imagine the chaos that might happen if two people gave the orders on the field.  Similarly you wouldn’t want two wives trust me one is more than enough for any man!  But for some applications two or more is better.  Take for example the case of the singled barrel shotgun.  You had better be a great shot, because if you miss there is no second shot to back up the first.  Truly a firearm for the expert as well as a beginner that you don’t want wasting a lot of ammo or want to help them train their eye.  But for the majority of users a single barreled single shot shotgun is impractical.

There is a relatively new trend in Bourbons and that is the Single Barrel Bourbon.  Most of the very large brands like Jim Beam White Label and Wild Turkey 101 will dump anywhere between 5 and 10 thousand barrels for their production of their flagship bourbons.  Small Batch bourbons dump anywhere between 40 and 80 barrels for their production.  Single Barrel is just that, one barrel that gets dumped and goes straight into bottles.  So the question is, does dumping multiple barrels or just one make better bourbon?…

Wathen’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a 94 proof or 47% ABV bourbon that has a pleasing mellow nose of dark plums and brown sugar, with a touch of alcohol in the initial whiff.  It pours an oily dark golden color and looks like it has great promise.  This particular bottle came from barrel 790 and was bottled on September 1, 2009.  I didn’t say on the bottle how long the bourbon was aged but based on its look and flavor I would have to say between 5 and 7 years in oak.


This bourbon drinks very well neat with the dark fruit flavors of plumbs and cherries with some brown sugar and a just touch of wood.  The finish had a little spice of licorice and the burn was moderate and lasted about 45 seconds.

On the Rocks

Cooling this whiskey brings out the barrel sweetness and caramel flavors were released.  It was a very good rocks bourbon, and the flavors became more complex and intertwined with cooling.

With a Splash

This extinguishes the finish which was moderate to begin with, adding water makes it very tame.  The flavor was still very good with water and if you want to extend your bourbon here, Wathen’s can take it.

This was a very good bourbon.  This is the second single barrel I have reviewed however, and I must say there is a certain depth or character that is missing between small batch and single barrel.  The single barrel just tastes a little thin and not as full bodied.  All in all a very good bourbon and worth a try.


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22 Comments on “One is the Loneliest Number”

  1. January 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    I was a little nervous when I saw the gun but I hung in there and read on. Love the shotgun analogy. Some interesting information too! I don’t see myself sipping bourbon any time soon but I can definitely use this info when buying a gift for my husband or dad or just knowing what to have in stock for company. Thanks.

  2. Don
    January 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Rachel, you just have to get over that mental block and start sipping bourbon yourself! It is a great spirit, and makes wonderful mixed drinks too. Perhaps you would like an old fashioned, or a Manhattan. All very good Bourbon mixed drinks. Don’t want to fuss with mixing, just add a little Ginger Ale and Grenadine. That makes a great highball! Once you give it a try you won’t go back, just ask Jim. He now loves (ok maybe that is a little strong) really likes bourbon. Ask and I will give you some great advice on a great and inexpensive starter bourbon. The door is always open, you just need to take that first step through! BTW I loved your Christmas Beers post!

  3. January 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Agreed. Once someone starts trying some of these Bourbons, it seems almost inevitable that they will like it. Take the plunge. As far as single barrels go, I love them. It take a lot of skill to get it right.

    • Don
      January 4, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

      I think that they do the single barrel bourbons to give enthusiasts like you and me something to talk about. As for my $$ I think I will buy the occasional single barrel, but mostly I think that small batch hits the sweet spot more often.

      • January 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

        I think your right. They also do it simply because they are artists at heart. To me, the soul of the maker really comes through when they make single barrel. Small batch is nice too, because it’s still artistry that comes through. A nice bottle is simply a thing of beauty.

        • Don
          January 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

          Mike I think you are right. The Master Distillers really do take their craft like art. I heard of one company from Kentucky that was doing a second aging in Hungarian Oak to try and develop a very unique flavor profile. Why all the fuss if they were just in it for the money. They are craftsmen and they love their craft.

  4. January 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m not much of a mixed drink girl but I’m willing to try. I’ve been intrigued by a Manhattan since seeing “Don Draper” sip them weekly on Mad Men. Thanks also for your advice offer. Give me one brand/bottle I should buy to start out, and one drink recipe, doesn’t have to be a Manhattan, with all of the ingredients, how to mix it, etc. I’ll pick it up at the store and test it out and report back (on my blog, maybe too…..) here.

    Thanks for checking out the beer tour!

    • Don
      January 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

      OK Rachel, Here goes. I’m not going to do anything fancy here, just very basic. Get yourself a bottle of Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star bourbon. Should be about $12 bucks. You might just like it on the rocks (My personal favorite). But for a very basic mixed drink it is simple. Fill a tall bar glass with Ice, Add about 2 fingers of the AAA 10 Star, add about a tablespoon of Grenadine, Fill to the top of the glass with Ginger Ale. Add a Maraschino Cherry on top, stir and enjoy. This is the highball drink that my wife grew up with every Christmas, and for my money a very good way to mix bourbon. Of course if you are feeling adventurous just take a little nip out of the bottle for yourself. You will be a pro in no time!


  5. January 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    Don, Ok. I copied it and printed out the instructions. I have this on my agenda for this weekend! thanks!

    • Don
      January 4, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

      Make sure you stop back and let me know how you liked it.

  6. January 5, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Looking forward to reading the results as well. Don, you’ve got me tempted to try this as well – I’m NOT a bourbon drinker but then again I don’t know anything about it except what I read here. Good analogy BTW although single barrel pumps are my fav!

    • Don
      January 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm #


      It really is a good and simple recipe. Give it a try. The AAA 10 Star is a great budget conscious bourbon and a really good introduction to the spirit. Give it a try you’ll love it.

  7. January 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    The AAA 10 Star might wind us up in AA meetings!

    Sorry–couldn’t resist! 🙂

    • Don
      January 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

      Or AAA Meetings…as the case may be! 😉

  8. Mori
    January 5, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    This one was very interesting. When I was in Lynchburg Tennessee they talked a lot about their single barrel process. The point related to your blog was the inability to create the signature flavor. With a single barrel the flavor will be unique and not a full as their normal process. In my cynic nature it seemed a way for them to sell their product for a premium price without waiting fifty-years. So I think it is a trend that will not last.

    • Don
      January 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

      Hey Mori! Didn’t expect to see you around these parts! Must have toured the JD Facility? I think that there is less Quality Control that they can do with single barrel whiskeys, and that is why enthusiasts like me like them! They do charge a premium for the stuff however, but I was able to pick this bottle up for about $27. Not too bad considering most other states are in the mid 30s to $40 range. As far as the trend goes, it has been going on for around a decade, and my thoughts are it will still go on, but it will never get huge like other trends in spirits for the reasons you mentioned.

  9. January 7, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    I am writing to regretfully report that my (state run) liquor store did not carry AAA 10 Star. They did have a bottle 1.75l bottle of AA for 19.99.

    I asked the cashier if they were going to get it in and he said they didn’t have it. Not sure if means because it is out of stock of because they don’t have it but I got the impression that I was only permitted to ask him one question.

    • Don
      January 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

      No worries here Rachel. We can get past this. If you already bought the 80 proof version disregard what I am about to say, and just use that. Otherwise I’d say get a bottle of Evan Williams Black Label. Don’t get it confused with the Single Barrel, that stuff will run you about $30. This might be even less expensive than the AAA 10 Star. I think it is about 86 proof and should run you about $10 for a fifth. That is also very good bourbon and has almost the same flavor profile as the AAA 10 Star, perhaps a little sweeter, but since you are mixing it that should be fine. Funny thing about State run Liquor stores, it is like going to the DMV. The people there really aren’t the most helpful or knowledgeable in the world. I have the same issue in Idaho.

      • January 7, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

        I didn’t buy anything. I love the comparison you made about state run liquor stores and the DMV. That’s exactly right! A couple of weeks ago, we went and they had 1 line open with about 10-12 people waiting. Reluctantly another employee opened a second line. I guess we didn’t move fast enough to her cash register because she yelled at everyone that she wasn’t going to standing there all day. It’s really a great shopping experience.

        I did not know that Idaho also had state run liquor stores. That’s a shame.

        • Don
          January 7, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

          I’ve been trying to figure out how I can get appointed to the Alcohol Board of Control (ABC) so I can improve upon the Whiskey selections!


  1. Evan Williams Single Barrel: Thin Is In! « Beer & Whiskey Brothers - March 12, 2010

    […] problem with single barrel whiskeys, they seem thin to me.  I’ve talked about it before, here and in the online bourbon forums.  If a bourbon is taken from a single barrel it tends to be […]

  2. Single Barrel Whiskey « Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - February 8, 2011

    […] proof and very full bodied, aromatic, and has a big, long, satisfying finish.  The next one was Wathen’s Single Barrel.  This is a 94 proof bourbon that was satisfying, but I began to notice a bit of (for lack of a […]

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