Initially, the aroma easily goes to Barrell 7 Year Single Barrel Rye. It is a sweet, decadent, candy-spice bomb. Barrell starts as a more complex experience than Old Forester Single Barrel Rye which has a distinct and robust black pepper rye spice nose. Barrell's aromatic nose is consistent throughout the tasting experience, even after sitting in the glass for a while.
However, after Old Forester sits in the glass for a while, its nose makes a strong and welcomed comeback. Wow! Rich, creamy caramel overtakes the clove, black pepper, and mild cinnamon spice. Old Forester's nose seems to get richer the longer it sits. I'm assuming because of its high proof that it needs air. I can't wait to taste it after a couple of weeks of sitting in the bottle.
In the end, the Old Forester's nose closes on Barrell's, but it's not enough for the win. What a battle!
The palate goes Barrell 7 Year Single Barrel Rye. It is richer and not as one-dimensional as Old Forester's nose. However, they are very different experiences. Barrell is much smoother than the hot Old Forester. Old Forester's palate combines black pepper, clove, rye spice, and heat. Its viscosity is also a little more oily than Barrell's.
Even though Old Forester Single Barrel Rye runs hotter, Barrell 7 Year Single Barrel Rye has a longer and more satisfying finish. Old Forester is hot in the mouth, but as soon as it gets to the throat, the heat dissipates almost immediately. Weird. Conversely, Barrell is smoother inside the mouth, but once it hits your esophagus, it heats up and gives you a friendly long hug all the way down.
Overall, Barrell Rye Single Barrel 7 Year is the winner. In Old Forester's defense, this battle used the neck pour of Old Forester, and the bottle has not opened up. Barrell had a week off before the "game" and was well-rested in the bottle. Look for a rematch soon.
***UPDATE*** Since this article was written, Old Forested Single Barrel Rye has opened up and has surpassed Barrell's 7-Year rye.