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

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Glenrothes, Widow Jane (MGP), JD Barrel Proof, Samples rampancy control

I have somewhat of a glut of samples. Some are great some not so much. I’ll be rapidly reviewing some of them with to get it out of the way.

Glenrothes Reserve Sample Pack
Bourbon Cask Reserve
Bottle notes: Coconut and vanilla, rich and sweet.
My notes: Malt and sweet, oak, and bits of bourbon spice. Pleasant.
Sherry Cask Reserve
Bottle notes: Spicy ginger, Orange peel. Sherry oak.
My notes: In line with bottle notes. Spicy ginger sherry
Vintage Reserve
Bottle notes: Mellow, light fruits, citrus and honey.
My notes: Somewhat in-between of the first two. More mellow than sherry, spicier than the bourbon cask. Arguably the most interesting of the three.
I wish Glenrothes didn’t bottle just about everything at low proof. These samples are 40%, yet still plenty malty and flavor forward. Their old vintage bottles are 43%. Hardly anything is over 48%. That being said, I paid $10 for the 3 pack. No regrets, expectations met. Solid, drinkable, makes for a good present/intro into main scotch styles.
Score: B-

Widow Jane 12 Single Barrel 99 proof(MGP)
A solid MGP pick with nothing outstanding but nothing missing. Baking spices and wood in balance with MGP vanilla sweetness. Possibly too much wood as it becomes little bitter with oxygen. As a package, this is somewhat similar to K&L’s SAOS, reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200729-002755. Solid bourbon, way above the average, bordering on great.
Score: B+

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof #18-8295; 128.9 proof
Fire! lots of fire, wood and spices. Boy this thing is alcohol forward! Then come tons and tons of wood and spice and sugar. It’s tasty but really alcohol forward and doesn’t make me reach for more than one pour by itself. Mostly a mix of generic bourbon flavors in this one. Nothing bad, nothing outstanding. If anything its almost better to be used to proof something up or on the rocks to cut that alcohol. Lovers of fiery Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases will find this quite up their alley though. I’m glad I’ve tried it to cover tasting/distillery bases. Cheap Jack is not my cup of whiskey, but their barrel proof releases are reasonably drinkable, but I’m not going to be missing this particular profile. Is it drinkable? Yes. Is it one to instantly buy in the store? Not particularly. As a side note, with bourbon prices rising sharply this could be one of the few semi-available barrel proofs in its particular price bracket and of course with each bottle being a single cask your mileage may vary on the flavor and alcohol balance notes.
Score: B-

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

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Old Ezra 7, Old Forester 1920

Old Ezra 7 Barrel Strength, 117 proof
Nose: Alcohol and rye forward. All the classic bourbon flavors are there as well as a bit of cherry on the nose combined with that sweet and spicy profile. Quite pleasant and enjoyable to sniff at.
Palate: Wood and rye profile. Extremely concentrated and rye forward. Notably, not overly sweet as opposed to the nose, and not much cherry. Wood is strong in this one and it’s a little tannic/bitter. I think it can benefit from small splash of water.
Aftertaste: Wood, wood and more wood that eventually fades into spice numbness. Quite long and reasonably good one for folk that look for those wood notes. No particularly bad flavors in the back and this particular balance certainly has its appeal.
Overall: Well this is a spice and wood bomb which is arguably more concentrated on flavor than its 117 proof suggests. To me, the balance is way out of proportion and leans too much towards wooden tannins. Certainly enjoyable, though I’d recommend having this on the rocks. The upsides of this being a high proof and age-stated have been noted but I’m struggling to see it as my daily drinker, though someone else certainly can claim it as such. Certainly worth trying a glass if possible out there, before making a bottle commitment. I wouldn’t recommend chasing it down if other things are available or for some sort of premium price.
Score: B-

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style, 115 proof
Nose: Cherries all over on the nose. It smells like an alcoholic cherry jam of sorts. Some may find it a bit too much but this brings childhood memories for me so I’m ‘cool cool cool’ with it (not the alcohol part, jeez, the cherry jam).
Palate: Typical sweeter bourbon profile, as opposed to the rye spice, is on display here, yet again with cherries having a ball. The balance is excellent, though the sugar actually is on the losing side from the wood, spice and alcohol, very enjoyable if somewhat proof-forward. It certainly is sweet, the corn content makes sure of it, but the other flavors win over the sweetness.
Aftertaste: Medium length and quite pleasant. More of the same from the palate on the interplay of balances with yet again, sugar being on the losing side. Wood, spice, alcohol, cherries. Like eating a bit of sugarless cherry jam, with booze.
Overall: This is a dependable, solid, daily drinker with no frills and barely any downsides. Slightly dry in terms of sugars is about the only minor gripe for me. An excellent, but not outstanding, bourbon that leans towards cherry profile. For now, readily available in stores and worth having.
Score: B

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

Whistlepig, Few; Why wait till fRYEday for more reviews?

I’ve been slacking last week on the reviewing part, so may as well not wait any longer and review more samples

Whistlepig 10 ‘Original Wine Club Pick’ Single Barrel 112 proof
Nose: Oh you, sweet vanilla front and center here. Very perfume-forward.
Palate: Ethereal vanilla that drinks much higher than its proof. Really, it drinks like a 125+ for being a 112 proof. Nearly no body. Little bits of wood but the alcohol overwhelms. Water helps here to tune the alcohol burn down, after which it becomes a wood/spice/vanilla mess.
Aftertaste: Alcohol burn with some wood and vanilla sweetness. Less burn after water. Very slight rye and eucalyptus in the very back. Very long aftertaste that is likely its saving grace. I want that aftertaste, yet I dread drinking more to extend it.
Overall: This is a hot mess. I find myself struggling to give it a passing grade after having done work to make it drinkable. Honestly, I’m struggling to see rye notes in the glass at all. If I was tasting it blindly, I’d be convinced this is some kind of bourbon. Becomes reasonably drinkable with water, essentially not palatable at bottle proof. The aftertaste is actually quite good, but it’s a journey I’d rather not take to get there. Side Note, the sample I was given was my first experience with Whistlepig. I’m aware they produce/bottle highly-regarded delicious bottlings, but this wasn’t one of them for me.
Score: D+

Few Rye ‘Total Wine Pick Single Barrel’ 101 proof
Nose: Chocolate and rye bread on the nose. With a tiny bit of eucalyptus of course, it wouldn’t be a rye without that for the most part.
Palate: Very rye bread-like on the palate. Sweet and quite complex to unwrangle. Wood is well balanced together with spice and vanilla flavors and doesn’t lose in its intensity. The closest thing I can come up with on similarity would be a well roasted, freshly baked rye bread crust. Maybe with a small touch of caraway seeds.
Aftertaste: Same as palate without major changes or deviations and lasts a reasonable amount of time. Again, a lot like eating fresh rye bread in my childhood. Maybe a touch of soap somewhere in the very end, which is something that I’d expect with this type of rye profile and it works fine for the most part.
Overall: Well, this one takes me right back to my childhood of… eating freshly baked rye bread. Its tasty, reasonably straightforward and neither has any major faults nor generally outstanding in some way. Extremely drinkable and quite delicious nonetheless. Definitely enjoyable straight, but also will not call you back after moving on to something else.
Score: B

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