Whiskey Review: Coalition Sauternes Barriques

, | May 25, 2021

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Coalition Whiskey. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Craft is the word that really describes what Coalition Whiskey is doing with their whiskies. Every step of their process has been painstakingly planned out and considered, and it comes together in a beautiful product – quite literally when you take the bottle into account. The “coalition” of Leonid Yangarber, Steve Thompson, and Ludwig Vanneron (who we spoke to recently) is seeking to create something really special.

The base whiskey used for every finish is made completely with rye – not one element of the mash has any other grain added for flavor or process. For a variety of reasons most rye whiskeys are made with a combination of grains, one of them being certain difficulties associated with working with rye. According to the legendary Dave Pickerell, “Rye is the brat of whiskey grains. The higher the percent rye you get, the worse it behaves.”

Which just adds to the feat Coalition has pulled off. According to Yangarber, “a keen understanding of the science behind rye whiskey served as the foundation for this grand experiment.” The rye itself is distilled with a pre-Prohibition copper pot still in Crestwood, Kentucky, at the Kentucky Artisan Distillery (Thompson’s distillery) – and grown a mile away.

The grand experiment continues on to the aging of the product. Coalition is promoting their products as “the first 100% Rye Whiskey finished in hand-selected Bordeaux wine barrels.” This is where Vanneron’s wine-making and consulting really shines. The whiskey has been aged for five years in oak before seeing the wine barrels, where it spends up to nine months. 

Each individual barrel has been chosen from a large selection. The idea here is that the best barrel, from the best wine, is needed to make the best whiskey. Wine barrels are chosen from three Bordeaux regions – Margaux, Sauternes, and Pauillac. Vanneron uses “visual and, more importantly, smell inspections” to ensure quality in every barrel. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, they add a bit of gold to the mix. The stunning, art deco style bottle has a touch of 18K gold in the label, which Coalition calls “a hint to the precious liquid contained within.” The bottle style is also in reference to the 1920s time period wherein rye whiskey originally shined. 

It’s the 20’s again and rye has come back around. The modern rye boom is in full force still, and Coalition’s whiskies will have a sure place in it.     

Coalition Sauternes Barriques

Coalition Sauternes Barriques (image via Talia Gragg/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Coalition Sauternes Barriques Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 

Vital Stats: 94.2 Proof, Mash Bill: 90% rye, 10% malted rye. Aged 5 years in American white oak, finished in Sauternes barrels, $90 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Golden toffee, quick legs that are well spaced. 

Nose: Cereal grains sweeten to apple tart, finishing in dried fruit.

Palate: Slightly thick texture, spice, and a slightly bitter touch of grassiness kicks off then warms up into cocoa and cereal grains. The apple from the nose comes back in a drier capacity at the end for a solid finish, neither too short nor remarkably long.

The Takeaway


I’m more impressed by this whiskey than I thought I would be. As stated before, 100% rye is a tricky concept, particularly for a smaller whiskey company – and it really works here. The rye is well-balanced and tastes good, and is done a service by an ideal combination of aging and finish.

User Review
5 (1 vote)


Talia Gragg

Talia is part of the Portland service industry community, and an alumna of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. She’s an avid spirit and cocktail enthusiast, and likes to experience them both academically and recreationally. When not sipping whiskey she’s a ceramic artist and lover of travel.