Distillery 291 Barrel Proof Single Barrel Bourbon Review

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Situated on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, CO., Distillery 291 is an award-winning, small-batch craft whiskey distillery that produces a range of bourbon and rye whiskies. The dream of ex-New York City fashion and beauty photographer Mike Myers, Distillery 291 seeks to replicate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West by producing whiskies that they describe as “one of a kind, bold and beautiful, Colorado Whiskey. Rugged, Refined, Rebellious.” Founded in 2011, Myers bore first-hand witness to the tragic events of 9/11 and subsequently moved his family to Colorado Springs before being inspired by a travel magazine to combine his love of whiskey with his passion for the old West and create a truly unique style of whiskey. Having been raised on rural family farms spanning Georgia and Tennessee, across a countryside defined by rolling hills, horses, and Tennessee whiskey, Myer’s love for the iconic vision of a cowboy walking into a bar, saying “Give me a whiskey!” and the bartender slamming down a bottle, drove him to create a whiskey worthy of this exchange.

A true from-the-ground-up style operation, Myers was completely self-funded and started 291 from a 300 sq. ft warehouse he leased. Here he taught himself how to mill and mash grains, how to distil and make cuts, and built his original 45-gallon copper pot still using copper photogravure plates of enduring photographic scenes from his photography career such as western landscapes and the Chrysler Building. Myers’ initial operation was so small-scale that he was buying 10-gallon barrels one at a time from family-run cooperage the Barrel Mill in Minnesota, using 55 gallon Pepsi drums for fermenters and producing approximately 60 gallons of ready-to-barrel whiskey in a whole month.

Having never considered sourcing whiskey, Myers created his mashbills himself to emulate the bold flavour profile he envisaged a Wild West whiskey to possess. Utilizing grains from the Colorado plains and Rocky Mountain water, he wanted a whiskey that is “Hardmade, the Colorado Way”, even going as far as adding toasted Aspen oak staves harvested from a friend’s land nearby to each barrel for about three weeks before bottling. As an additional twist, Distillery 291 uses what they have dubbed the ‘El Passo Process’ where they take secondary stillage from a Bristol IPA beer and add it to each batch of mash before slowly triple distilling to create a more viscous new make whiskey. 

Since their first distillation on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Distillery 291 has enjoyed a growing reputation for the quality of their whiskies and have received numerous awards from prestigious sources. Now located in 7500 sq. feet with a 300 gallon still and producing 240 gallons a week under distiller Eric Jett, plans are already in place for the operation to expand to a 28,000 sq. foot campus with demand far exceeding supply for their 10 distinct whiskies. Still ageing for approximately 2 years in 10 gallon deep-charred white oak barrels their range of offerings now include a small batch bourbon and rye, a single barrel bourbon and rye, a small batch American whiskey, two different new-make whiskey products, a 4-grain bourbon, a high-rye bourbon, and their very famous Experimental E series of whiskies.

Part of Distillery 291’s core range, their Barrel Proof Single Barrel Colorado Bourbon provides fans of their Small Batch Colorado Bourbon and their Single Barrel Colorado Bourbon the opportunity to taste the same distillate but at cask strength and also from a single barrel. Featuring 291’s standard bourbon mash bill of 80% corn, 19% malted rye, and 1% malted barley, that’s milled on site, fermented in open-top fermenters, and triple distilled in their copper pot stills before being aged for just over a year in heavily charred 10 gallon new oak barrels, each release of Barrel Proof Single Barrel yields about 45 or so bottles. As with all their other whiskies it is also an Aspen Wood Finished whiskey meaning that toasted staves of aspen wood were added to the barrel for about 3 weeks prior to dumping, mingling, and bottling the whiskey. This whiskey comes bottled in Distillery 291’s standard tall bottle with a wire cage holding the cork in place and bears stickers of their numerous awards.

Vital Stats:

Name: 291 Barrel Proof Single Barrel Colorado Bourbon Whiskey – Finished with Aspen Wood Staves (Barrel # 635 – Bottle of 30 of 48)
Age: NAS
Proof: 127.3 Proof (63.6% ABV)
Type: Aspen wood finished bourbon whiskey
Mashbill: 80% corn, 19% malted rye, and 1% malted barley
Producer: Distillery 291, CO
Website: https://distillery291.com/whiskeys/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens sweet with rich dark salted caramel, dried orange peel, earthy baking spices such as nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon, dried red and black fruit, and peppery grain notes mingling with citrussy herbaceous hops. As you nose deeper more oak-forward notes emerge including cloves, barrel char, and cacao.

Palate: The palate opens viscous caramel, citrussy hops, and tropical fruit notes. These are quickly followed by a wave of peppery spice that washes across the palate bringing with it more hop-forward tropical fruit notes of lychee stone, dried red and black stone fruit, and black pepper. Once the spice fades you’re left with lingering notes of dried fruits, earthy baking spices, cloves, nutmeg, and citrus-forward hop notes aswell as dry tannic charred oak. With a few drops of water the intensity of the flavours and hot spice get pushed back somewhat with dominant light caramel and herbaceous grain notes leading the charge. Don’t fret, however, because the baking spice and peppery rye do creep back slowly in as you keep chewing it.

Finish: The finish opens with sweet lychee and baking spice notes before turning herbaceous and hop-forward and finally fading into a dry tannic aftertaste of warm oak, hops, lychee, and light caramel.

Overall 

This is the best whiskey I’ve tasted from Distillery 291 to date, even beating out their Small Batch Colorado Rye and the 2021 release of Barrel Proof Colorado Straight Rye which were 1st and 2nd in my rankings. Honestly, being a big fan of their rye whiskies, I never expected one of their standard release bourbons to outpace them both, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. It’s big, bold, and it’s bursting with near-endless layers of flavour from the nose to the aftertaste. As I smell and drink it, it conjures up visions of a traditional bourbon-soaked Christmas cake with spices, dried fruits, candied citrus peel, brown sugar, and all the delicious flavours these bring jammed in between. Every drop is brimming with intense flavours which continue to develop the longer you leave it to breathe and is characteristic of my experience with well-made craft whiskey aged in smaller barrels. There is an element of fiery spice in this whiskey but at barrel proof it’s really not out of place and as I found in my review, a few drops of water eases this right back.

If you prefer to stay neat at barrel proof rest assured that the spice doesn’t overwhelm the palate, instead it brings heat and more flavours in equal measure. Another positive aspect of this whiskey are those citrussy hop notes which are inherent to 291’s distinct house-style of whiskey. Here they add those candied citrus peel notes aswell as a herbaceous edge that’s present throughout and contributes greatly towards the balance in the flavour profile and the unique drinking experience I’ve only ever found with 291’s whiskies. One of Distillery 291’s mottos is “Rugged Refined Rebellious ®” and this whiskey embodies that philosophy in every drop. In fact, if you told me that this is the whiskey that won the awards adorning the front of their bottles I’d have to agree that they absolutely deserved every single one of them. As a bonus this bottle has also been hand-signed by Michael Myers which is a finishing touch rarely found in this age of mass volumes.

Distillery 291 recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their first distillation run. This is a big milestone and considering how far they’ve come (see picture below for their first still setup!) their story serves as inspiration for anyone waiting to follow their dreams. Drinking this it’s obvious that they’re still firmly on top of their game and the only direction is up. Their unique and delicious house style of whiskey, their attention to detail, and the quality of what they produce shines through in all of their releases, even when the whiskey is uncut, unfiltered and straight from the barrel making it harder to hide any flaws there may be. Honestly, this whiskey has left me very impressed and 291 remains a distillery that I’ll be keeping an eye on as they continue to expand.

Try or Buy?

With an RRP of just over $100 (depending on your market) this is a try before you buy for me. Yes, the barrel I have is stellar but before you go spending $100+ on a bottle make sure you’ve tried it and know it’s for you. If you’re already a 291 fan go straight to buy.

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Like you, I’m a whiskey enthusiast. I don’t earn any money from distilleries, their parent companies, or their subsidiaries for my reviews. If you like what you’ve read and want to support this page then why not buy me a dram?

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Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!

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