Barrell Craft Spirits Cask Finish Series: Tale of Two Islands

Readers of this site, as well as viewers of Weekly Whiskey on YouTube, and listeners of the Whiskey Raiders Podcast are very likely aware that–generally speaking–I am not a very big Scotch Whisky drinker. I have a small amount on my bar, but it’s largely a mood pour for me (at best), and more for sharing with friends; additionally, I own precisely zero bottles of Scotch from the Islay region. It’s just not a profile I find myself interested in. So why all the Scotch talk in a bourbon review? I have my reasons. Namely, I want to lay the groundwork for what was one of the most surprising bottles of bourbon I have opened in a long time: Barrell Cask Finish Series: Tale of Two Islands. It’s worth noting there is also an Amburana finish in the Cask Finish Series, but for now, I’m focusing on the Tale of Two Islands. Let’s dig in, and I’ll explain the origin of this finished bourbon as well as my tasting notes and rating.


John H.




October 26th, 2023

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Barrell Craft Spirits is a brand who represents what a non-distilling producer (NDP) can really do when they focus on creating outstanding products by blending and finishing whiskey.  They are truly the masters of crafting unique and delicious products such as a former Bourbon Finder whiskey of the year product, Seagrass.

In a world where the whiskey market (and bourbon in particular) can’t seem to release new products fast enough for the eager consumer base, creating new and exciting products has really become a top method to add value to a brand’s offerings.  If you haven’t been following Barrell Craft Spirits this should be considered a wake up call.  When it comes to NDP’s and rolling out delicious products that are available nationwide, I can think of no one who does a better job.

Okay, I’ll stop pumping Barrell’s tires for now and go back to describing this release, which is dubbed the Cask Finish Series: Tale of Two Islands.  Bear with me on this, as it’s a bit of a process to describe how in the world Barrell got to the end result of this finished bourbon.  Let’s begin with Barrell’s initial offering under the banner of Tale of Two Islands.

In 2018, Barrell Craft Spirits produced a very limited release of our Tale of Two Islands Rum: a Jamaican Rum matured in peated Islay single malt barrels. To create it, the blending team filled previously used Islay Single Malt Whisky casks with a small amount of Barrell Rum Batch 001. We let it mature and the result was a deeply intense Jamaican rum with just a touch of misty peat smoke.

So the first release of Tale of Two Islands was rum finished in Islay single malt barrels–which is why I made mention of Scotch back in the intro.  The barrels used to create the finished rum were then taken to create this new Cask Finish Series edition of Tale of Two Islands, which is a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys ranging in age from five to nine years old.  The derived mashbill of 73/23/4 (corn, rye, malted barley, respectively) and states of distillation (Indiana & Maryland) are disclosed on the label–as Barrell always has done–and this is coming in at 118.22 proof.

I’m excited to get into this bottle and see exactly what this totally off-the-wall finish is going to do with the bourbon.  I’ve really enjoyed Barrell Bourbon batches lately (batch 031 being my personal favorite) and I think their history of creating things that sound too crazy to be good that end up being incredibly unique and delicious will help them get these bottles into the market.  For now, let’s worry about the most important metric for success: the taste.

Tasting Notes…

Nose – Rich buttery oak with bright fruit, a dash of citrus, and a small kiss of smoke.

Taste – Whoa! (I seriously said that on my first sip) – Heady flavors of caramel and demerara sweet bourbon notes kick off before a few waves of fruit that hits tropical layers and comes back around to citrus as well. While I don’t pick up and peat or noticeably Scotchy vibes from this, there’s an undeniable blend of savory layers and oak backbone bringing this together in an incredibly rounded way.

Finish – Long and elegant finish that moves through a cyclone of flavors ranging from savory oak char and baking spice to sweet jammy fruity layers that remind me of fruit cobbler and finally coming back around at the end with just tiny bit of smoke.

Bourbon Finder Grade: A-

Final thoughts…

This is damn good whiskey.  Hands-down the most surprising thing I’ve had since WhistlePig’s Boss Hog IX (which was crazy in its own right).  The layers of rich bourbon (especially considering the ages of the blend) working with the dash of savory notes and the bright fruity essence are an absolute work of art.  Had the mouthfeel stepped up just a notch, I could see this becoming one of the highest scores I’ve given.

Once again Barrell has done it.  Showing unmatched prowess in not only their blending, but in the outside-the-box thinking that crafts finished whiskey like nothing else.  This is a limited edition product I could really see flying off the shelf.  Thanks for reading along.  Cheers!

Be sure to subscribe to the Whiskey Raiders Podcast to hear Jay and myself sip whiskey (and more) and share our first impressions, tasting notes, and perspectives.

The Bourbon Finder & Weekly Whiskey thanks Barrell Craft Spirits for graciously providing us a sample of their product and the images used in this post. Being able to try new things in the whiskey space, without strings attached, is an opportunity we greatly appreciate. Per our review ethos, we provide objective reviews and commentary on media samples of spirits and products; remember, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!

Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!

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