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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Devils River Barrel Strength

We were recently helping a family in a nearby small town recover from flood damage. There was a newer convenience store that had opened and I'd noted in their social media posts some exceptional products (with prices that were competitive, as well). After grabbing a couple of great finds, the purveyor noted I was still reviewing his line-up. With confidence he recommended Devils River Barrel Strength. "A lot of customers say they like it better than Blanton's". I noted the price was half of the BEST price I'd ever purchased Blanton's at, and while I doubted his words, I couldn't fault his effort and salesmanship. I stretched out my hand and grabbed the bottle off the shelf.

Texas Whiskey

Devils River Distilling is relatively new on the scene. Their lineup includes a Straight Bourbon, Barrel Strength, Rye, and even a Coffee Bourbon. Bourbon comes down to the grains, yeast, water, wood, and time. This distiller pays homage to the critical ingredient of water.

According to legend, in 1840, Texas Ranger John Coffee Hays came to the exceptionally pure waterway that locals called San Pedro - or "St. Peter". As he stood in the crystal clear rough waters, surrounded by deep canyons, he felt it needed a stronger name - "The Devils River". The namesake water is limestone-filtered spring water, considered by many to be some of the purest water in Texas.

Co-Founder and President Mike Cameron is the self-taught distiller who created Devils River Whiskey. Distilling operations are in downtown San Antonio, just a block away from the Alamo and the San Antonio River Walk.

The Tasting

Devils River Barrel Strength comes in a squat, flask-shaped bottle, with a label depicting the falls and rapids of the Devils River. The mash bill is 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. The finished product is chill-filtered and bottled at 117 proof. There is no age-statement provided. From the website, we're told to expect a "high-rye bourbon with a flavorful bite, yet a smooth taste amplified with hints of oak, honey, caramel, and spice." The retail cost is approximately $29.

Eye: Medium amber with thin legs dripping down the sides of the glass.

Nose: At 117 proof, there is an initial dose of alcohol. After it's had a chance to breathe, there is a healthy dose of sweet honey, vanilla, and a very light note of mesquite.

Palate: The mouthfeel is creamy, with sweet honey, vanilla, baking spices, and some light fruit notes. It's very smooth considering the high proof. A drop of two brings out light floral notes, intensifies the honey, and tames the spice.

Finish: Medium-long with more honey, charred oak and peppery spice.

Overall: For the record, this isn't Blanton's, but for the price point and the proof, this is a solid bargain. It was enjoyable neat or on ice, and would make a flavorful cocktail. Not all bourbons come from Kentucky. This Texas bourbon, with bold spice, drenched in honey, was a good buy and worthy of a try.

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