Small batch bourbon, also known as small batch whiskey, is a bourbon that contains a blend of contents from a select number of barrels. In the alcohol industry, "small batch" does not have a legal or scientific definition. Distilleries often create their own standards when determining what small batch whiskey is.. 

what is a small batch bourbon

Many American whiskeys and some Scotch whiskies have "small batch" labels. These products are typically marketed as premium alcoholic beverages. Check out this information concerning the flavor and production of small batch whiskey and how it differs from single barrel and standard bottle bourbon.

Distillation History of Small Batch Bourbons

The small batch bourbon revolution began in the U.S. during the late 1980s. During this time, more and more people became interested in whiskey products that were not filtered or diluted with water. They wanted drinks that were pure and flavorful. Small batch whiskeys were in high demand because they were unfiltered and undiluted and had several layers of flavor due to the selection of whiskey barrels that distillers used to make them.

During the 1990s, small batch whiskeys became incredibly popular. Some attribute this popularity to nostalgia. The world was becoming more digitized. Many longed for a drink that reminded them of rustic times. Small batch bourbon accomplished this. Its flavor made people feel like they were living simply somewhere on the great plains of Kentucky. In the U.S., small batch whiskey sales grew after the 9/11 attacks. The American populace wanted to showcase patriotism by drinking bourbon, something decidedly American. 

Today, small batch whiskey has become a staple in millions of households and businesses. Many restaurant owners offer their customers bottles of small batch whiskey. They often recommend they pair each drink with certain foods, such as steak, salmon, and aged cheese.

What Is the Flavor Profile of Small Batch Bourbons?

Many small batch bourbon products have a mixture of contents for gustatory reasons. A whiskey maker may sample several whiskey barrels to create a small batch drink with a unique taste. Some makers prefer their whiskey to consist of barrels with similar flavors. Others want their bourbon to consist of barrels with different flavors. People will often purchase a brand's small batch whiskey to evaluate its understanding of flavors. A small batch whiskey could attract sophisticated palates that seek depth and complexity. Another could attract light-hearted palates that desire novelty and excitement.

There are small batch bourbon products that are very sweet. They taste like clover honey or white chocolate. Some have fruity flavors like dried cherries or baked apples. There are spicy-tasting products with notes of black pepper or cinnamon. There are products with herbal flavors, such as fresh mint or black tea. Woody small batch whiskeys with pine or oak notes are common. Earthy bourbon blends with grass or leather notes are also available. Most small batch whiskeys have a mix of sweet, fruity, spicy, herbal, woody, and earthy flavors.

How Are Small Batch Bourbons Produced?

Since the "small batch" concept is not regulated, the "small batch" process is not standardized. Thus, whiskey makers employ various methods when producing bottles of small batch bourbon. Some refuse to use more than 25 barrels. Others use as many as 200 barrels. Some distilleries have devised mathematic formulas that address barrel and bottle volumes for small batch production. Barrel char levels and years of aging can also appear in some production formulas. It is not uncommon for a distillery to change the ways it makes its small batch whiskeys because a single, universal "small batch" method does not exist.

At Rabbit Hole, we only use 15 barrels per "small batch." This number is much lower than that of other brands. By using such a relatively small number of barrels, we can cultivate distinct flavors and create refined and balanced whiskeys. We will take contents that have aged in char barrels for five years and age them again in hand-selected casks to yield great-tasting bourbon. Working with a small number of barrels helps us focus on flavors and build up the character of each small batch bourbon.

Small Batch Bourbon vs Single Barrel Bourbon

While small batch bourbon consists of contents from multiple barrels, single barrel bourbon contains whiskey from one specific barrel. Single barrel bourbon has more flavor variation than small batch whiskey because every barrel of whiskey has a profoundly different flavor profile. One barrel of bourbon will not have the same taste and consistency as another because each barrel's location impacts flavor. Single barrel bourbon contains whiskey that has aged for a certain number of years, while small batch whiskey can consist of bourbons that are from different age groups.

Many regard single barrel bourbon as more exclusive than small batch bourbon because the volume of whiskey distillers can get from a single barrel is significantly less than the amount they can get from a mixture of multiple barrels. Though the production process for small batch whiskey is more complex than the one for single barrel whiskey, a distillery will often make their single barrel bourbons more expensive than their small batch ones because of the variations in volume. 

It is impossible to determine whether single barrel whiskeys taste better than small batch drinks. Some prefer the strong, distinct flavor of single barrel bourbon. Others like the way multiple flavors coalesce in a shot of small batch whiskey. It is truly a matter of preference.

Whenever you crave a bottle of first-rate small batch bourbon, check out Rabbit Hole's offerings. Our distillery produces several small batch whiskeys. There is a four-grain, small batch whiskey made from corn, malted wheat, malted barley, and honey malted barley. It smells like fresh apples and tastes like honey, citrus, and mint. Also, there is a three-grain, small batch whiskey that consists of corn, wheat, and malted barley. It smells like sherry with traces of cherry and caramel. It tastes like raisins and currants with hints of vanilla and almond. Rabbit Hole offers high-quality small batch whiskeys.

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