Single Barrel vs. Small Batch

Eagle Rare DetailThere are a fair amount of terms and industry jargon relating to whiskey that can be a bit confusing despite their attempt to simplify things.  “Small batch” and “single barrel” are two of those terms, often being mistaken for the other, or something completely different altogether!  Let’s get it straight right here and now.

Single barrel is easy.  Picture one barrel of bourbon.  Now picture an empty bottle dipping into the barrel and filling up with bourbon.  Put a cork in it, that’s single barrel.  In other words, single barrel whiskeys are those in which the contents inside the bottle come from, you guessed it, a single barrel.  Whereas many whiskeys will take the contents of many barrels and mix together to ensure a consistent product, single barrel whiskeys can be (slightly) different from bottle to bottle.  Some examples of single barrel whiskeys are:

Small batch is just as simple, although maybe not as clear-cut.  To be considered small batch, a whiskey must come from a limited number of various barrels.  Rather than one barrel (single) or thousands of barrels (think Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s), small batch whiskeys might be blended together from 10-50 barrels.  Examples of small batch whiskeys include:

So there you have it.  Pretty simple, eh?  Now you are a single barrel / small batch expert.  Go forth and educate!




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  1. A small thing, Elijah Craig 12 is a small batch bourbon whereas the 18 year old EC is a single barrel bourbon. Otherwise, a solid explanation of the confusing world of whiskey jargon.

    1. Oops, you are right! Fixing now…


    • Brad on February 26, 2016 at 6:29 pm
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    So why are single barrel bourbons considered better? Why the price increase? It doesn’t sound like it takes any greater effort to produce, just don’t mix the barrels.

      • Ryan on February 29, 2016 at 8:03 am
      • Reply

      Hi Brad.

      I’m not sure I would consider single barrel bourbon “better” than small batch, although perhaps you have been guided in that direction. Personal preference based on taste is what should dictate whether or not a whiskey is palatable to you.

      Marketers can and will use these terms to differentiate, whether or not it has a direct impact on quality or taste. I suggest you try a single barrel and a small batch whiskey side-by-side and make a decision on quality for yourself.



      • Russ on October 28, 2018 at 2:23 pm
      • Reply

      Brad I enjoy single barrel Four Roses Bourbon because each bottle I get is slightly difference in taste while maintaining an excellent smooth Bourbon.

  1. […] wrote a post a long time ago about the difference between single barrel and small batch whiskeys.  I mentioned how single barrel whiskeys are just that – poured from a single […]

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