Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey Meaning
What does small batch bourbon whiskey mean? In a nutshell, “small batch” is an unregulated, undefined term which implies that a whiskey is handpicked from a few barrels and is better than the average whiskey. The words “small batch” do not appear on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (commonly referred to by its abbreviation, TTB) list of definitions that defines the legal terms & phrases that distilleries can use for specific terms. Since it is not legally defined, each distillery determines for themselves what a small batch whiskey or bourbon means to them, and it is therefore more of a marketing or branding phrase rather than one with a precise definition. It really is only helpful to differentiate the various products that a brand makes from each other, for example, 1792 Small Batch, 1792 Bottled in Bond, 1792 Full Proof.
So, depending on the company, “small batch” can mean the whiskey is blended from just a couple of barrels or it could be blended from 200 (or even more) barrels. A 200-barrel blend may be a “small batch” for a distillery whose brand name whiskey is made from thousands of barrels, but it is probably nowhere near as distinctive in flavor as a single barrel whiskey (which is defined as being from just one specific barrel). This doesn’t mean that “small batch” is not a great whiskey, many of them are truly fantastic!
Another important fact about small batch whiskey -vs- single barrel is that a small batch whiskey can use barrels with different ages of whiskey in them, whereas a single barrel is only one barrel and therefore has only one specific age.
History of Small Batch
Small batch bourbons began to get attention in the late 1980s. People were becoming more interested in higher proof whiskeys, not just the standard 80 or 86 proof that was common at the time. They were also looking for more crafted, unique flavor profiles. Undiluted and unfiltered whiskey and bourbon, therefore, began to be appreciated due to their more complex flavor and higher proof.
In the 1990s, small batch whiskey & bourbon had proven to be a brand idea that was here to stay and many distilleries started producing their own version. Today, many of the top brands have their own small batch whiskey that they release every year.
According to Wikipedia and other sources, the following distilleries have defined their small batch whiskey as:
George Dickel uses “approximately 10 barrels” of whiskey to make each batch of its Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey brand.
Willett Distillery uses at most 12 barrels per batch for its small batch brands.
Jefferson’s Bourbon has a Jefferson’s Reserve (“Very Small Batch”) expression that gives its 750 ml bottles a number “x” out of 2,400 bottles in the batch. Assuming the angel’s share and other losses amount to about 40%, this number of bottles equates to about 15 typical bourbon barrels per batch, each 53 US gallons in size.
Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey says that a small batch would involve “typically no more than 100” barrels.
Elijah Craig bourbon has a brand expression that it describes on its label as “a true ‘Small Batch’ Bourbon before the term even existed” that is produced with “200 barrels or less”. The batch size for the brand was increased from 100 to 200 barrels in January 2016 when the brand expression’s 12-year age statement was dropped.
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch is made in batches of “no more than 300 barrels”.
Purpose of a Small Batch Whiskey
The generic large brand flavor profiles that we all know such as Knob Creek, Four Roses, Jack Daniels, etc maintain a consistent flavor year to year because they blend such a large number of barrels together that it essentially highlights the mash bill flavors and tones down or homogenizes the impact of the barrel on the flavor. The beauty of a small batch whiskey is that the master distiller can create their own desired flavor profile for a whiskey by selecting only the barrels that have the flavor profile they are trying to create.
With this in mind, they may choose barrels that have similar caramel, vanilla, and nutty flavors (or whatever flavors they are seeking to highlight). Or they may choose contrasting barrels that have sweet flavors in some and savory or spicy flavors in others and blend them together in various percentages to get the flavor profile they want.
Some Small Batch Bourbon Whiskeys
- 1792 Small Batch Bourbon
- Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon
- Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
- Broken Barrel Small Batch Bourbon 95 Proof
- Bulleit 95 Rye Small Batch Whiskey
- Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Small Batch 10 Year
- Calumet Farm Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch
- Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
- Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch
- Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon
- Frank August Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
- Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
- Horse Soldier Signature Small Batch Bourbon
- Jefferson’s Reserve Very Small Batch Bourbon
- Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
- Kentucky Peerless Small Batch Bourbon
- Kirkland Small Batch Bourbon
- Knob Creek Small Batch Aged 9 Years
- Larceny Very Special Small Batch Bourbon
- Michter’s US1 Small Batch Bourbon
- Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon
- Peerless Small Batch Bourbon
- Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel
- Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey
- Wilderness Trail Bottled In Bond Small Batch Bourbon Wyoming
- Whiskey Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey