You don’t need an actual distillery to make great whiskey. In Scotland and Ireland, independent bottlers have been proving it for centuries. The art is in the blend. Since 2013, Kentucky-based Barrell Craft Spirits has been singing that message to an American audience, assembling award-winning bourbons, American whiskeys and, more recently, rums. Today, it exists as one of the country’s premiere non-distilling producers (NDPs), as its latest release, Gold Label Dovetail, plainly proves.
The limited-edition, ultra-rare expression is a blend of American and Canadian whiskies finished in rum, cabernet, and port barrels that meld together as mellifluously as the name would suggest. The Dovetail line initially debuted in 2018 and won an instant following with fans and critics alike, earning a Double Gold at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. But this latest release takes that winning formula and stretches the maturity of its component whiskeys to new heights—some up to 25 years in age.
The resulting juice is a whopper—over 140 proof—and aggressive in its aromas of fresh berry fruit, fig jam, and peppermint. On the tongue and into the finish, however, it’s all about the tropical tonalities. Pineapple and mango emerge as the stars, surfing across a creamy, almost honey-textured mouthfeel. It’s an absolute joy to drink neat—though a drop or two of water will help tame the beast, while doing nothing to diminish that aforementioned velvetiness.
"When we look back at the moments in our company history that really changed our course and helped define who we are now, the creation of—and success of—Dovetail is one of those moments,” says Barrell Craft Spirits founder Joe Beatrice. “It has become a highly regarded expression within our portfolio of products and the American Whiskey world. It’s taken on its own identity in the way we think about it and so has the defined process by which we make it. When there are barrels asking for the types of flavor that the Dovetail process imparts, the script is somewhat written for us.”
The scriptwriting here began in earnest over two years ago, when Beatrice amassed an assortment of delicious-yet-somewhat unbalanced casks of high-proof liquids from Canada, Indiana, and Tennessee.
“We knew they needed to be built out flavor profile-wise," Beatrice tells Men's Journal of the formulation. "They needed a secondary maturation that was sweet but structured. All of us in the company wanted an old, 140-proof Dovetail to exist, so we did it. I still personally sign off on every blend that leaves our facility and, to be honest, this was one of the most immediate ‘yeses' I have ever given. It's so powerful but also so Dovetail.”
And even at $500 a bottle, Gold Label Dovetail is going to be gone fast. This blend is on-trend.