Monday, August 31, 2020

Sonoma Distilling Tasting!

I’ve had a privilege to be part of a zoom tasting for Sonoma Distilling, led by Adam Spiegel himself! Not only he’s the owner and head distiller at Sonoma but he will also talk your ear off while geeking out about all his equipment, stills, and grain sourcing. Frankly, he should, as its kinda cool.
I had the very excellent tasting kit: https://www.sonomadi … -Whiskey-Tasting-Set at hand to go along with the presentation so lets jot down most of what’s on the (included) tasting cards and then I’ll add my notes and opinions on top. Because who doesn’t want to know my opinions on booze, right?

Sonoma Bourbon (Wheated Bourbon 92 proof)
Bottle Notes
Mash: 70% corn, 25% wheat, 5% malted barley
Nose: Vanilla, Almond, Toffee, Hay, and Cocoa
Palate: Honey, Caramel, White Chocolate, and Oak
My Thoughts:
Tasty-sweet wheated bourbon, that’s not a flavor bomb, yet holds its own. The flavor profile is sneakily subtle and borders on sonoma-distilled brandy. Excellent with food pairing or in a conversation as its easily understood and doesn’t overwhelm.
Score: B

Sonoma Bourbon was also previously covered here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry191220-085943

Sonoma Rye (100% Rye 93 proof)
Bottle Notes
Mash: 80% rye, 20% malted rye
Nose: Spicy Rye, Pecan, Date Rolls and Cigar Tobacco
Palate: Blueberry, Ginger, Vanilla, Allspice, Walnut, Dried Apricot, and White Pepper
My Thoughts:
Adam was trying to model this on Eastern European Rye Bread. I think he succeeded aplenty. Sweet, but not cloying. Rye spice, but not overwhelming. Chocolate notes galore! Its excellent! Tastes like rye bread indeed. Delicious. The nose is particularly multi-layered and complicated. Pair it up with savory things! Or have by itself… Or with friends… Or mixed. For a regular release this is bordering on greatness!
Score: B

Side Note: The barley is cold-smoked for ~45 hours in a converted cargo container. It also makes an awesome savory snack. So that’s kinda neat :).

Cherrywood Rye (Smoked Rye 95.6 proof)
Bottle Notes
Mash: 80% rye, 10% wheat, 10% cherrywood smoked barley
Nose: Baked Cherries, Vanilla, Custard, Butterscotch, Hay, Tar and Sweet Tobacco
Palate: Dry Figs, Roasted Almond, Brandied Cherries, New Leather and Light Smoke
My Thoughts:
The lighter of the two smoked selections… It’s sort of like a good manhattan that’s missing its cherry. Little smoked, but the smoke is subtle due to rye spice and inherent sweetness. Slightly more mellow vs the rye due to wheat addition into the mash. In some ways it’s almost a great cocktail in the making. Okay by itself but better as part of something else. Bordering on perfect fancy cocktail ingredient for those drinks that need rye. Perhaps a great pairing with just about any red meat. Still, this whiskey is excellent and hats off to Adam for getting the base rye flavor to be delicious. IMHO, regular rye is better as it’s easily made into close cousin of this variation by adding some bitters, touch of vermouth and liquid smoke to taste. (I do not endorse liquid smoke as ingredient nor do I possess any).
Score: B

Cherrywood Smoked Bourbon (Smoked Bourbon 95.6 proof)
Bottle Notes
Mash: 67% corn, 20% rye, 13% cherrywood smoked barley
Nose: Maraschino Cherry, Light Smoke, Allspice, Vanilla and Sarsaparilla (I had to look that one up… its a soft drink similar to root beer)
Palate: Molasses, Leather, Baked Cherries, Green Peppercorn, Tangerine, and Cocoa Powder
My Thoughts:
Very complicated and pleasant nose. Not my style of a drink though I can see where others may enjoy it. Little too bitter for me from the combination of smoke and wood. It almost feels like a balance is off somewhere. Possibly lacks sweetness to amp it up and bring the body back. Smoke is subtle but very unmistakably there. Highly drinkable still, as slight savoriness from smoke makes me come back to it. Due to lack of sweetness pair this one up with lighter, sweeter things that take smoke well like fish or roasted veggies or manhattan it up.
Score: B-

Sonoma Spirits and Adam clearly want to do what they think is best and are excited to do it well. This is not a distillery that wants to follow the current trend of high rye bourbons, instead they concentrate on locally grown, locally sourced and locally distilled product that showcases terroir of their distillery location. Adam mentions multiple times that he wants to acquire all the ingredients in the bottle with 5 mile radius of the the distillery and even now he’s able to do a 20 mile radius bottles. Which, in the current cutthroat bourbon boom, is highly commendable. For me the ranking of the samples are as such… Regular Rye is fantastic and thus is the winner. Regular Bourbon and Smoked Rye share 2nd place and Smoked Bourbon is in 3rd. The overall tasting experience, geeking out with Adam on zoom and getting full distillery video tour, not to mention a healthy discount on the samples box, easily pushes the tasting up to the most excellent level. If you like California whiskeys or never tried one, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping Sonoma Distilling. So stop by for a distillery tour and/or pick up their bottle from the store and judge for yourself.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown