barrell dovetail review
Barrell Dovetail Bourbon
Type & Region: Bourbon, USA
Aged: 10 years in virgin American white oak + finishes
From the Barrell website:
“Dovetail is blended to highlight some of our favorite flavors. Woody bourbon; terroir driven Dunn Cabernet; toasted French oak; Late Bottled Vintage Port pipes; black strap molasses casks; all working in tandem to create a buttery and deep whiskey as unique as it is delicious.”
barrell dovetail overview
Barrell Dovetail bourbon is a blend of cabernet, port, and rum finished bourbons from Indiana (MGP) and Tennessee (Dickel). Dovetail is currently one of few, if not the only consistently released product (albeit in un-numbered batches with different ABVs) while Barrell keeps releasing newly numbered (and limited) batched bourbons, ryes, and other various experiments. This particular bottle at 61.9% ABV was released in February 2019, hence why the label looks different from more recent releases.
I’m a massive fan of finished whiskeys, and this particular blend of 3 different finishes seems cool, so I’m already interested. In this Barrell Dovetail Bourbon review, let’s find out if Barrell finished and blended this to perfection.
Thanks to Ryan S. for the sample.
As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for my reviews and comparisons (because they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass, Set of 6, Clear, 6 Pack. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.
barrell dovetail smell
Darker red wine and rum molassess sweetness come out of the glass first, but are quickly followed by a lot of harshness. Whatever it is, that heat and harshness is not pleasant and frequently smothers anything else that could be there. This is even after 30 minutes in the glass and reviewing from a less than half full bottle that’s had plenty of time to air-out.
Swirling and letting it rest again calms some of the heat and amps up the rum traits with lightly floral molasses, caramel, vegetal banana leaf, caramelized vanilla, and just a little preserved garlic (aka. rum funk). The wine finish is quite moderate with lighter berry notes, followed by cinnamon and roasted oak from the bourbon. Out of everything going on, I can’t quite seem to detect much low-end, which is weird because all the bourbon is at least 10 years old, and I expect one of these finishes to round out the low end. I’ll reiterate that this batch of Barrell Dovetail Bourbon is so rum-forward that it smells like rum, not bourbon. I also can’t quite get over how hot this bourbon is, in part because the other scents just aren’t strong enough to compensate. Dovetail smells alright, but the heat, harshness, and lack of low-end don’t help.
barrell dovetail taste & aftertaste
Dovetail’s flavors initially carry more of that red wine and rum sweetness – caramel, vanilla, rummy molasses, red berries, roasted oak, cinnamon, and clove, but the harsh heat, lack of low end, and thinness remind me of light whiskey, kind of like the Bull Run 12 Year Pinot Noir Finished American whiskey. That heat bites more than I’d expect for nearly 62% ABV.
With “chewing”, Dovetail becomes even more rum-forward with grassy molasses, dried banana leaves, dried raisins, honey, roasted vanilla, roasted oak, and garlic, then a little dark berry, cinnamon, clove and burnt raisin bread. I’ve found a similar lightly burnt cinnamon bun with raisin vibe in some rums, especially from Privateer. There’s richness buried in here, but the heat and harshness get in the way and make it unbalanced. It’s strange that Dovetail tastes more like rum than bourbon. Deep down I wonder if this is actually rum, but I saw the bottle so it should be bourbon.
The finish has some red wine fruit, rummy molasses, and a little oak, but all falls off very quickly into just an alcohol tingle. “Chewing” leaves a very short finish from the rum influence with roasted molasses, the rum funk dried banana leaves and preserved garlic, oak, and alcohol. I rarely say bad things about finishes, but this has to be the shortest and nondescript finish I’ve ever had. It’s just so meh.
Whiskey is also for sharing, so I use Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 2 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for smaller samples and Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 4 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for larger ones. Full transparency – This is an Amazon affiliate link so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else. Regardless, I actually use these myself.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
Oh boy, where do I start with Barrell Dovetail Bourbon? I guess to start, it teeters in this awkward “this could be really good if only…” purgatory where I enjoy it occasionally but I can’t over its major flaws. It’s close to being just “Mid Shelf”. Primarily, it’s so hot at times that I can barely appreciate any of the finishes or underlying whiskeys that I’m sure Barrell tried to carefully craft. Even when I do get past the heat, it’s so rum-forward in an unbalanced way that I’m pretty sure I’m just drinking rum. The port and wine finishes are light and / or completely overpowered by the rum, which probably contributes to Dovetail having very little low-end depth. At this point, I’d rather have a Foursquare Exceptional Cask or Privateer Single Barrel rum.
Barrell Dovetail is very far from being bad or undrinkable, I just struggle to recommend it. This is coming from someone who’s one of the biggest finished whiskey fans on this planet. There are moments of fairly rich and interesting molasses, caramel, banana leaves, raisins, and burnt bread, but it can’t quite put it all together into a cohesive and overall enjoyable experience. I feel so strange writing this because I really wanted to like Dovetail. I hope that other batches are a lot better because I wouldn’t recommend this particular 61.9% ABV batch, especially at $80-90. I’ll probably refrain from any more Dovetail for a while.