Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, just on the edge of Stanislaus National Forest in the small town of Arnold, two small-business owners are defining what it means to make American craft spirits, and they’re having fun doing it. “In a business like ours, when you’re selling a product, you better be having fun doing it, and we certainly are and we hope our patrons see that.” says Bonnie Randall, co-owner of Hinterhaus Distilling.
Founded in 2020 by Bonnie and Nate Randall, Hinterhaus Distilling is a small, family-owned, craft distilling operation that has been quietly putting out experimental and award winning spirits. In a delightful PBS special, both spoke about their backgrounds and their journey to distilling. Having worked in various fields, including the wine industry, the pair moved to Arnold after a trip to Big Tree State Park (literally a park full of giant Sequoia trees).
Nate had caught the spirts bug after discovering Kräuterlikör in Germany and educated himself through research and working/interning at a local distillery. Since, he has Hinterhaus to focus on small experimental craft products, while Bonnie markets the brand. “We are relatively small on volume. But because of that we get to experiment with really unique ingredients,” she says.
Crafting spirits, often done by a master blender, is the process of blending various whiskeys to achieve a desired flavor, or to age/modify someone else’s spirit in a expressive way. This is a different job than a master distiller, who takes a more central role when the product is not blend dependent. Bourbon, for example, is seldom blended (within the meaning of what is done by a master blender) whereas Scotch is often blended to produce a very specific flavor profile.
Nate Randall does both. As a master distiller making his own gin, vodka, and most recently their American Single Malt, Nate also crafts the brand’s experimental bourbon lines, blending each batch from distillate from other producers, and then selecting ex-wine barrels to finish the product in. The barrels are from local California wineries in a nod to the couple’s background in wine and the importance of wine to Northern California.
And each choice is intentional as they “… pair the wine varietal and casks to the Bourbon [they] are finishing.”
This review focuses on the Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Finish Bourbon – Batch 16. The Batch 16 bourbon is a blend of 5-year, 8-month-old bourbon from Nashville, Tennessee, and 4-year, 10-month-old bourbon from Houston, Texas, each with a wheated mash bill. It is then finished for an unspecified time at a 4,000ft perch in American Oak, ex-Barbera wine casks. Barbera is a bold Italian wine grape, known for notes of strawberry and sour cherry.
Tasting Notes: Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Finish Bourbon
Vital Stats: A blend of 4 and 5 year-old bourbons, finished in American Oak, ex-Barbera wine casks; 92 Proof (46% ABV); $49/750ml.
Nose: Dried wheat and singed bread crust roll through the nose. Cloves and hints of raspberries peek between light pine wood and tannins.
Palate: Cedar box (lighter than oak) unfolds with orange marmalade & cloves trickling down on top. A quite detectable Texas Bourbon flavor is present (rye bread with a hint of rum funk). After sitting on your tongue for 10ish seconds, light red wine (think Pinot Noir) seductively hints it’s there. A smooth palate finishes in coffee bean and wheatgrass.