December 1, 2023

Close-up of a wooden barrel with 'Still Austin Whiskey Co.' printed on it, with another barrel partially visible.


What’s the deal with ‘Single Barrel’ whiskey?

When you look across the line of labels in the bourbon section of your favorite bottle shop, you’ll notice that most bottles of bourbon are simply labeled “bourbon.” You see, when making whiskey, most of the time distilleries choose to blend several barrels together to create a profile of flavors and aromas that the Master Blender–and hopefully the distillery’s customers–will find pleasing. Every barrel in a rickhouse (a term for the warehouses where whiskey barrels are kept) will have a different profile. In some cases, even barrels that were filled on the same day, with the same distillate, can have wildly different characteristics.

By blending these barrels together, blenders and distillers hope to achieve a better balance in their spirits. Whether you’re drinking Kentucky straight bourbon, Texas bourbon, or Colorado pot still bourbon, it’s extremely likely that the whiskey has been blended from multiple barrels. The exception to this would be a bottle labeled “Single Barrel Bourbon.” Single Barrel whiskeys are bottled exclusively from one barrel, with no other barrels blended along with it.


The Origins of Single Barrel Bourbon

Blanton’s, a Kentucky bourbon, is generally recognized to be the first widely-available commercial single-barrel bourbon. Not long before his retirement, legendary Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee was tasked with creating a bourbon of the highest possible quality–a whiskey he could hang his legacy on. After a good deal of pondering, Lee recalled working under Colonel Albert B. Blanton in the late 1940s, during the earliest days of his career. Lee remembered that when Colonel Blanton would entertain dignitaries and other important guests at the distillery, he would hand-select specific barrels–which he called “honey barrels”–and create special bottles, one barrel at a time. In tribute to this tradition, Elmer T. Lee decided to name his new bourbon “Blanton’s Single Barrel,” which he launched in 1984. You’re probably thinking: That’s pretty recent. And you’re right! The single-barrel category has only been around for about forty years. And single-barrel bourbons have really only taken on life within the market over the past couple of decades.
It should be noted that Elmer T Lee didn’t invent the idea of single barrel bourbon. He is simply recognized as the first person to begin marketing single-barrel bourbon as a distinct product. Before the Blanton’s release, Brown-Forman and National Distillers had both released single barrel products (Old Forester and Old Overholt), but those whiskeys didn’t highlight the “single barrel” feature as a major selling point.

Do Single-Barrel Whiskeys Have a Distinct Taste Profile

The short answer is no. Since every barrel is different, each single-barrel whiskey is different. Single barrels are a phenomenal way to experience the varied flavors that can be drawn from a single oak barrel. However, since each barrel is unique and distinct, choosing a single-barrel whiskey from your local shop or bar ensures that you’ll enjoy an irreplicable experience.


Handpicked Excellence: Our Barrel Selection

Recognizing the importance and the unique qualities of single-barrel whiskeys, Still Austin has devised a very special Single Barrel Program. We welcome retailers, bartenders, bar owners, and other industry professionals who are interested in single-barrel whiskey to take the time to visit our distillery. Here, these valued members of the spirits world can taste through our barrels and select specific single barrels to be bottled, shipped to a distributor, and then ordered to sell in their store, restaurant, or bar. The process has some nuances, so it’s handled with special care and attention by our Single Barrel Manager, Christian Wilhoft. Christian will comb through the barrels in our rickhouse, searching for a particular barrel that exemplifies unique characteristics, selecting the most appropriate and specific barrel he can find for a given client.

A Texas Touch: Terroir’s Influence on Our Bourbon

Firstly, you probably know that Texas is big–but you may not be aware of how huge it is. The state is home to ten ecoregions; it has 91 peaks over a mile high and 3,000 miles of coastline. For this reason, when we say we make our spirits from 100% Texas grains, that means we’re able to make use of a staggeringly complex variety of homegrown grains, including corn from North Texas, and rye and barley from the Texas Panhandle.  

And then there’s that famous Texas weather, which changes constantly. From the chilling impact of blue northern cold fronts to the hot winds off the gulf of Mexico, from the arid edge of the continental divide to the swampy air coming from Houston, the constantly changing weather can have a profound effect on whiskey—and we’re at the center of it all. These mercurial weather patterns encourage the expansion and contraction of the barrels in our Hill-Country rick house, speeding up the aging process.


The Still Austin Single Barrel Whiskey program is a premium offering for select partners that gives them the opportunity to share a one-of-a-kind spirit to customers not available anywhere else. Each barrel is hand selected for its unique and highly-desirable characteristics. Partners are given access to these select barrels, to sample and select their favorite. We’ll bottle your selection at cask strength and brand it with your company’s logo exclusively for private sale by your business.

When you select from Still Austin’s barrels, know that you’re choosing from some of the finest whiskey in the country. Our spirits are made from 100% Texas-grown grains and distilled in our 42-foot column still, which was hand-built in Scotland. The bourbon is then aged for at least two years in casks crafted from sustainably grown American oak, perfectly charred to allow the spirits to move in and out of the wood.


  • Why choose single barrel bourbon whiskey over other variants?

Both single-barrel and traditional bourbons have benefits. While traditionally bourbons are blended to produce the most dynamic and complex flavor profile, with a single-barrel release you’re drinking a spirit that has come from a single source, so you can sip knowing that the complexities of flavor all came from one unique oak barrel.

  • How does StillAustin ensure the consistency of its single barrel offerings?

We select our single-barrel offerings by drawing on years of combined expertise, passion, and experience. There’s no shortcut to this kind of knowledge; you have to go the long way.

  • What defines the optimal aging period for StillAustin’s single barrel bourbon?

There’s no overarching “optimal” age for single-barrel bourbon. However, like with any other whiskey, the longer the spirit ages the more flavorful it will be. With that said, whiskeys do tend to age more quickly in Texas due to the dynamic nature of the Lone Star State’s climate.

  • Why should bourbon enthusiasts opt for StillAustin’s single barrel over competitors?

We’re not here to tell you what to do! If you favor a competitor’s single-barrel offering, we love that for you! In fact, we too are huge fans of some of our competitor’s single-barrel bourbons. But we have to say, for our money, Still Austin is producing the most subtle and immaculate single-barrel whiskey in the state of Texas.

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