Broken Barrel Americana Review [In Depth]

Broken Barrel Americana

Alex author
Founder, writer
Broken Barrel Americana header

Broken Barrel Americana Details

Distillery: Broken Barrel

Type & Region: American whiskey, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: 80% corn, 14% rye, 6% malted barley

Aged: Not disclosed

Color: 1.1/2.0 on the color scale (burnished)

Price: $40

From the company website:

We strive to create whiskey that reflects a certain style and profile. Each batch and each release is meticulously crafted to ensure it is unlike other whiskey on the shelves. There is little logic to creating more of ‘the same’.

That’s where the Americana comes in – as Bourbon prices soar and alternative American whiskeys styles like Light Whiskey and Single Malt gain popularity, we believe the appetite for new American whiskey styles is growing, and so we give you the Americana. A blend of light whiskey and bourbon, finished with three very American-favored oaks that combine beautifully – toasted, charred and Apple brandy barrel staves. The results of this Oak Bill is a sweet, soft and smooth sip-worthy whiskey that offers a lighter style than bourbon. A great alternative to Highland Scotch or Irish Whiskey, and a fun substitute in your next craft cocktail.

Broken Barrel Americana​ overview

Broken Barrel has bourbon and rye (as many brands do), but they have this thing called “American whiskey”…which is just a generic term for whiskey made in America that’s not bourbon, rye, wheat whiskey, or malt whiskey. With Broken Barrel Americana, it’s actually a blend of bourbon and light whiskey, which is often referred to as “blended bourbon”. It can be a confusing term because it doesn’t mean a bunch of bourbon blended together.
The main question, apart from whether Broken Barrel Americana is good, is what is light whiskey?
Light whiskey is also a bit of a misnomer. It’s not “light” because it’s watered down, but because of the way it’s produced. It’s not necessarily so different from how bourbon is made, but there are enough tweaks that it’s in its own category.
While bourbon can be distilled up to a maximum of 160 proof (80% ABV), light whiskey is often distilled even higher, which removes even more character from the spirit. It’s not quite like vodka, but I wouldn’t say that it’s so far off from it either. Vodka is usually distilled 5+ times, while light whiskey may only be distilled 2-3.
While bourbon must be aged in virgin charred oak casks, light whiskey can be aged in virtually any type of oak, be it used bourbon barrels, uncharred oak barrels (same as bourbon), or something else made from wood. There’s more flexibility.
This creates a spirit that’s usually lighter on personality and complexity. There’s less heavy oak and spice. It’s not inherently better or worse, but definitely different. Scotch and Irish whiskey are predominately aged in used barrels, which impart character less quickly than virgin charred oak barrels. That’s why you can have 15-20 year old Scotch that’s still fairly light in color while bourbon will be a deep brown of some kind after 8-10. It is what it is.
There are a handful of light whiskeys and blended bourbons on the market, if that’s something you’re looking to try. Blended bourbons (a blend of bourbon and light whiskey) tend to be sold as super cheap bottom shelf booze. That is not always the case though. Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club is one example of a more premium blended bourbon, using older bourbon and light whiskey.
As for light whiskey, Ry3, Obtainum, and Penelope occasionally have something to offer. Keep in mind that they source it from MGP. Again just a fact, neither good nor bad.
And just like all their other whiskeys (bourbon or rye), they use staves to add more character to the whiskey. Broken Barrel Americana’s stave bill consists of
  • 40% charred american oak
  • 40% toasted american oak
  • 20% american apple brandy cask
This is a different combination than in the small batch or cask strength bourbon. This uses way more american oak and replaces the sherry oak with american apple brandy. That could mean that there will be a little bit more apple influence in the whiskey, but it’s not guaranteed. I just have to drink it to find out.
Let’s find out what this expression offers in this Broken Barrel Americana review.
Thank you to Broken Barrel for providing this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
Broken Barrel Americana side
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B003VAWA68&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Broken Barrel Americana​ smell

With my first few sniffs I get honey, dried apricot, fragrant oak, orange peel, baked apple with cinnamon, and a little licorice, mint, clove, and roasted grains. Broken Barrel Americana smells nice and has decent richness with a moderate amount of sweetness, fruitiness, oakiness, and spice.
So far, Broken Barrel Americana has a generally brighter personality with hints of darker sweetness and effervescent oakiness.
After swirling I get toasted honey, fragrant oak, apricot, red apple, a lot of cinnamon, then clove, mint, pineapple, and roasted grain. Americana is generally bright, oaky, spicy, and fruity with moderate richness but not much in the way of layers or depth.
It’s probably the younger or lighter American whiskey leaving richness to be desired, even though the staves help a lot to liven it up.
Even though this is American whiskey and not bourbon, it doesn’t feel so different from their Broken Barrel Small Batch Bourbon bourbon. Broken Barrel Americana smells pretty good, but it doesn’t really capture my attention. It doesn’t push me away either.
Broken Barrel Americana front

Broken Barrel Americana​ taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with denser honey, apricot, vanilla, roasted oak, red apple, cinnamon, cherry, and some roasted grains, nougat, and earthy pumpernickel in the back. Broken Barrel Americana starts off sweet and fruity, quickly followed by oak, spice, grain, and earthiness with well controlled heat.
After one sip, I already know that it tastes noticeably better than it smells. It has a little burst of sweetness and fruitiness that I didn’t expect. The scents are a little shy, but the flavors immediately bring a little more personality.
With “chewing”, I get honey, red apple, apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, and a little caraway seed, nuttiness, and roasted grains. There’s more sweetness and fruitiness, bringing nice apricot and apple pop that has my attention.
The aftertaste starts with honey, roasted oak, a hint of dry nuttiness, dried apricot and red apple, cinnamon, clove, and pineapple with lingering oakiness and nuttiness.
After “chewing” it leaves honey, roasted oak, orange peel, red apple, cinnamon, roasted grains, and mint with lingering oakiness, spiciness, and sweetness.
This is going to sound like a contradiction, but there’s an interesting juxtaposition of flavorful pop yet not much complexity. There’s some pop at the top end, but not enough to fill out the rest of the flavors. It’s a good start, but not much follow through to provide a full experience.
Broken Barrel Americana tastes nice, but the American whiskey (and possibly some youth) still peeks out and doesn’t bring enough to the overall richness and depth.
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Broken Barrel Americana

Mid shelf+
Broken Barrel Americana is a well-crafted American whiskey (I nearly typed bourbon) that shows off the staves and how they can elevate the base whiskey. At the same time, it’s held back by the same base whiskey that doesn’t have much depth to it. I’ll repeat this again though – I enjoy drinking this. Since this is a review, I do have to provide the good and the not as good.
It’s interesting to me that the flavors are so much more expressive and rich than the scents are. The scents are good, but the flavors take what the scents have and release them, finally letting me appreciate what Broken Barrel crafted. The flavors are what propel this into “Mid Shelf+” territory.
Broken Barrel Americana has a dual personality: part of it has some nice pop and vibrance (probably from the staves) while the other part feels decently developed but not particularly rich or complex. It’s confusing but always enjoyable, although not outstanding.
As much as I enjoy Broken Barrel Americana, it doesn’t feel memorable. It’s great to drink for the moment, but I’ll be hard pressed to really remember it in the future. For $40, you can’t go wrong with Americana, but I would pick Broken Barrel Small Batch Bourbon over Americana. It’s more memorable, flavorful, and interesting for me.
The end result is good, but I’m not sold that this style of American whiskey in general is a worthwhile alternative to bourbon. We don’t need lighter and more delicate bourbon, we need more flavorful, fruity, and nuanced ones not dominated by oak, spice, and grain.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

There are no sponsors, no media companies, and no nonsense. Support The Whiskey Shelf by Buying Me A Shot.
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B07GL6Z1X3&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)