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.
Well, it happened for the first time; I had to completely re-write an article. As a whisk(e)y reviewer, my creative process is to draft a piece before trying the subject spirit, giving me background and perspective on the dram. Not only do I get to explore fun topics applicable to all whiskey and spirits, but it also helps me look for certain flavors & experiences in the tasting.
Today, I wrote the article for and then tasted two samples: Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Finish Bourbon – Batch 16 and Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Strength Single Barrel Reserve – Batch 13. Tried Batch 16, and so far so go. Tried Batch 13 … and… well… I had to rewrite my entire d*** article, because the dram was Just. That. Good.
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.
Nate Randall is master distiller (making his own gin, vodka, and most recently their American Single Malt) and a master blender (blending their main line Calaveras Cask Finish products from multiple distillates). However, once in a while “when we ran across a cask we felt was extra special, we wanted to share that experience with our patrons,” wrote Mr. Randall when I reached out to him. He takes barrels from local California wineries, in a nod to the couple’s background in wine and the importance of wine to Northern California, by “… pairing the wine varietal and casks to the Bourbon we are finishing,” and then ages the finishing cask for an extra amount of time until the expression is fully developed.
The Single Barrel Reserve series is the result, bottled direct to consumers without dilution or chill filtering. Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Strength Single Barrel Reserve – Batch 13, is a 4-year and 4-month-old bourbon from Bardstown, Kentucky that uses a combination of yellow corn and Bloody Butcher Corn, along with wheat and malted barley in the mash bill.
Bloody Butcher Corn is a red corn that earned its name from the way it resembles a bloody butcher’s apron when milled (lovely) and has a flavor tending to be nutty and robust compared to more common varieties. He finished the dram in American Oak Petite Sirah (my favorite wine varietal along with Cab Franc) casks and bottled it at 108 proof, which is fairly calm for a cask-strength offering.
Tasting Notes: Hinterhaus Distilling Calaveras Cask Strength Single Barrel Reserve
Vital Stats: A 4 year and 4 months old Bardstown, Kentucky bourbon, finished in American Oak Petite Sirah casks; 108 Proof (54% ABV); $77/750ml.
Appearance: Rich red amber that is neigh impenetrably dark in the bottle.
Nose: Out-of-the-oven pumpkin bread. Bitter cacao dances amongst rich blackberries and currants. Vanilla beans soften the bouquet.
Palate: Petite Sirah. That is definitely and discernibly Petite Sirah. In translation, rich marionberry intertwines with candied oak and wheat grain. Slight smoke floats toasted pie crust, which melds with the dark fruit. The finish is dark cherries, butterscotch, and cigar box.