In October of 2019, I was given the opportunity to travel down to the Old Forester Distillery to participate in their single barrel program for Quarry’s very own bottling. This limited release was made exclusively for us from one single barrel of Old Forester (picked by me) making for a one-of-a kind bourbon expression that will only ever be bottled and available once!
Before sampling through the barrels and making our selection, we started with a tour of Old Forester’s new Main St. facility in downtown Louisville (which I highly recommend to anyone traveling through the area). Highlights included their in-house cooperage and barrel charring station, a rickhouse for aging experimental barrels, and their beautiful still “Big Penny”!
After finishing the tour of the facility the real fun began. I had the honor of meeting and tasting with Old Forester’s Master Taster, Jackie Zykan, a badass whiskey scientist (and literal master at tasting) who wears many hats in her role with Old Forester and rocks them all! We sat with Zykan within the cool walls of the rickhouse surrounded by hundreds of aging barrels of Old Forester bourbon and embarked on our journey to selecting the perfect barrel for Quarry. Before drilling into the first barrel, Zykan poured us a sample of Old Forester 86 Proof (43% ABV) to ready our palates. This delicious preparatory sample was an essential step as the liquid coming out of the freshly drilled barrels would be hitting our lips at barrel strength, or about 130-140 proof (65-70% ABV). Once prepped, Zykan had us drill into each of the three barrels from which we would be selecting our whiskey.
The first barrel had multiple drill holes allowing some extra oxygen (albeit minimal) to mix with the whiskey. The second barrel had never been drilled into before but had some seepage on its head. The last barrel also had never been drilled into and looked in close-to-pristine condition with minimal, if any, seepage. After pulling a sample of each and trying through the line-up I felt like a real life Goldilocks. Barrel one was savory and sweet but didn’t have enough balance or bite – too sweet. Barrel two smelled of sweet vanilla and graham cracker upfront but the hot and spicy palate came off disjointed – too spicy. And then there was barrel three, ahh barrel three. This was the one. Fruity on the nose, with notes of caramel and spice. Bold and balanced on the palate but still complex, even at barrel strength. Barrel three was just right. The perfect bottle for Quarry Select — and the rest is history.
Fast forward to present day and barrel three is just as delicious and complex at bottle proof as it was out of the barrel that fine day in the rickhouse at Old Forester.