Brand: Barrel House
Origin: Barrel House Distilling Co., Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Age: 4 years
Last year, my parents were traveling through Kentucky for a track meet my dad was participating in, and they stopped at Buffalo Trace distillery and a few liquor stores along the way. Aside from a nice E.H. Taylor-branded glencairn glass and some other goodies, my dad picked me up a 375ml of Oak Rum that he spotted on a store shelf in Lexington.
Of course, my dad knows about my rum hobby and the club, and our phone conversations will often cross between whiskey, rum, and cocktails. He sent me a photo of Oak Rum and asked if I had heard of it– which I had not– but I told him I'd pay for the bottle if he'd pick one up for me; the price was right, and I figured worst case scenario, I'd get some fodder for my rum review schedule. While I think "Oak Rum" is a fairly plain brand name, it's always interesting to see how a whiskey distillery's rum stacks up against others, especially other American rums.
This rum is branded as Oak Rum, and is produced by Barrel House Distilling Co. in Lexington, KY. According to their website, the distillery was founded in 2006 by Jeff Wiseman and Pete Wright, and released their first distilled product– a vodka– in 2008. Based on this 2012 review of Oak Rum, Barrel House may have started distilling rum around the same time, if they are consistent with their 4 year aging that is stated on their website.
Onto the details about Oak Rum! While I can't find information about how this rum is fermented or which still(s) would have been used to produce the rum, I did some digging and found photos of this pot still in a few places, leading me to believe this was used for Barrel House's rum– and perhaps whiskey. Frequent uses of the term "small batch" on their product page may lend some support to this argument. Oak Rum is aged for 4 years in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks, which could at this point be Barrel House's RockCastle bourbon barrels, as their first run of Kentucky Straight Bourbon would have been properly aged by late 2014. Finally, the rum is bottled at barrel strength, in this case, 51.5% ABV.
Amber, high clarity, low viscosity
Candied apples, caramel, vanilla, molasses, chocolate fudge, pastry dough
Caramel apple, molasses, vanilla, peanut butter fudge, cinnamon
Long, warming, sweet, tannic; fudge, red apple skin, vanilla, oak
Barrel House's Oak Rum is a example an American whiskey distillery that can do rum very well. This has a heavier body, the proof is high but manageable, and the nose and palate are both constructed very well. It's really fun, and shows a maturity of rum production that is welcome to see in a domestic producer.
Oak Rum is amber in color, and has high clarity and low viscosity.
The nose provides an overture of candied apples and caramel that take my mind to a nice Fall afternoon. Vanilla and molasses come in next, followed by a textured chocolate fudge, and finishes with a hint of pastry dough. Great nose at a respectable proof, with a few minor twists and turns that set it apart.
Tasting Oak Rum, I get caramel apple initially, bringing the note from the nose to life. Some dark molasses and oak-born vanilla come next, followed by a textured peanut butter fudge– thick, slightly powdered, and sweet but not overly so. A sprinkling of cinnamon wraps up this palate packed with flavor.
The finish is long, warming, sweet, and tannic. Plenty of fudge and vanilla continue through the experience at this point, with the bitter and crisp note of red apple skin providing a slightly fruity note. As the name implies, the oak barrel comes in throughout this warm finish, with plenty of recognition of the rum's aging vessel.
In my mind, there are 2 types of rum producers in America: rum distilleries, and distilleries that produce rum; when I don't have much information about a producer, I never know what to expect. What I experienced here was a rum that could rival Privateer's single barrels in its complexity and profile; if Barrel House releases this rum without additives (about which they do not state one way or another), this would be quite the feat. I would definitely suggest springing for a bottle if you find one available.