Whiskey Review: Krobar Rye Whiskey

“We know how to manipulate wood,” states Krobar Craft Distillery co-founder Steve Kroener. And no wonder. He and his business partner, Joe Barton, (the name is a mash up of their last names: Kro-Bar) have some serious Paso Robles wine pedigrees, with a combined 40 years experience in the industry at Silver Horse Winery and Grey Wolfs Cellar, respectively.  An inherited and beloved “old tee shirt” skill, the longtime friends still make wine,  but now they’ve branched out with Krobar Craft Distillery.

When the pair went into spirits they didn’t try to make spot on traditional styles, but to create unique, small batch whiskey, brandy, gin, and bitters with perspective. And wood, lots of wood, including whiskey barrels, wine barrels with small and large capacity, American and French with different levels of use and toast. “Our whole goal was to create products we can throw into wood, but not just your traditional rye whiskey or brandy barrels. We wanted to mix things up.”

“With distilling I develop many recipes,” says Joe Barton about distilling. “Some don’t work but the ones that do are magical. I really enjoy those magical moments of creating something truly unique.”

Pouring samples in the wood-laden tasting room they built and calling their brand, “high-end with a Cali twist,” Krobar is altering the way spirits traditionally express oak. Wine and spirit makers tend to have different ideas about how to use oak. Whiskey uses it for flavor, color and particular accents, while oak in wine can be about mellowing the tannins, acidity, and sharper edges, creating a whole that flows together from the tip of your tongue to the very back of your palate.

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In the Rye, (I tasted batch 1, barrel 70) Krobar used 25 gallon American oak barrels to smooth rye’s hard edges and create a tasting experience, almost like winemakers use oak aging. It’s not that this doesn’t taste like a rye, it does. It just progresses over the palate differently.

“We want to make traditional style spirits, but we take the traditional and make it non-traditional,” says Kroener. Barton put the founders shared distillery dream in his own terms. “We both loved the concept of ‘hooche experimentation.’”

Krobar Rye Whiskey

image via Krobar

Tasting Notes: Krobar Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: This rye is 46% ABV, 92 proof, made from 85% rye and 15% malted rye, and aged one year in 25 gallon American oak barrels. I tasted batch 1, barrel 70.

Appearance: With an intense, rosy amber with amaretto hints, an underlying umber hue, and good legs, this rye is striking in appearance.

Nose: Odors of fluffy cream soda and root beer enmesh with spicy white pepper and sage, but s juicy mysterious note of blackberry also lingers.

Palate: Rich, dark black cherry and cola are reminiscent of port wine, but spice, cinnamon and rosemary are also present in this spirit. A hint of char, baking soda, and warm honey fade pleasantly into a clean, juicy finish, with no typical malt funk.

The Takeaway

I confess I'm a sucker for wine barrel aged whiskies, but Krobar Rye seems unique among those as well. It's juicy with hints of cherry and cola reminiscent of port, but also spicy and full of rye backbone. If you feel like experimenting, give it a try!

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User Rating 3.75 (4 votes)