Head to Head: Spring Mill Bourbon vs. Beer Barrel Bourbon

A. Spring MillSpringMillbeer-barrel-bourbon

B. Beer Barrel

Maker

A. Heartland, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

B. New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Age: NAS

Proof

A. 90 (45% ABV)

B. 80 (40% ABV)

Notes

A. Rebarreled in new charred oak barrels

B. Finished in barrels used to finish beer in

Appearance

A. Light copper

B. Burnt orange

Nose

A. Wood shavings, alcohol, chocolate-covered caramels, fennel, leather

B. Dried cherries, roasted malt, corn chips, alcohol

On the palate

A. Sweet and hot. Medium bodied. Brown sugar, sweet tea, vanilla

B. Full bodied. Licorice, stone fruit.

Finish

A. Hot and long lasting with a bit of candy behind the burn.

B. Mellow and fruity. Grape soda, alcohol. Fades quickly.

Mixed

A. Excels in a Manhattan and does well in an old fashioned. Gets a little lost in cola.

B. Adds an interesting fruitiness to the Manhattan, does the same in an old fashioned. Downright tasty in ginger ale.

Parting words

Both of these bourbons are examples of small producers selling bourbon sourced from MGPI, Indiana but putting their own stamp on it. Both are successful in creating something different and probably superior to what they started with. As for Beer Barrel Bourbon (B), the fruity aspects of the stout that previously occupied the barrel come through the most, although a little of the roasted malt character also comes through.  It is a successful experiment but I don’t know if I’d buy another bottle. Mildly recommended.

Spring Mill (A) has more of a classic bourbon flavor. Rebarreling the often lackluster MGPI bourbon has added needed depth and sophistication. One of the proprietors of Heartland was not forthcoming about the nature of the second barrel (char level, size) when I communicated with him on social media, but I suspect it is a slightly smaller barrel with a lighter char, maybe 2 or 3. Whatever the case, it worked very well. The ceramic bottle adds interest (although I’m not quite sure how to recycle it) and the fact that the bottle shares the name of a street on the North Side of Indianapolis near where I grew up is a sentimental bonus for me. Spring Mill is recommended. Looking forward to some of the new barrel strength version of this stuff soon!