Whiskey Review: Redwood Empire American Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Redwood Empire American Whiskey

With high demand for unique kinds of alcoholic beverages these days, especially in the United States, success in one area tends to encourage forays into another. Such appears to be the case for Sonoma County, California-based Graton Distilling Company and their Redwood Empire American Whiskey.

The distillery traces its origins back to a man named Derek Benham, who, fitting to the region, started out in wine sales before eventually founding Purple Wine + Spirits in 2001 in Graton, Calif. Founded in 2015 as the spirits arm of Purple Wine + Spirits, Graton Distilling Company first launched the owner’s eponymous D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin in early 2016, then a like-named vodka, and most recently Redwood Empire American Whiskey in September

While the company takes pride in its unique, custom-built micro-column still, the producers also aim to set Redwood Empire apart through blending. Starting with a mash bill of rye, corn and malted barley, they mix several 11-, 5-, and 4-year-old bourbons (40% of the final product) with 2- and 3-year-old ryes (the other 60%), which includes some rye distilled in house. Some of those distillates are aged in new, high-char, American oak casks while others are aged in either port or wine barrels – a confusing and proprietary procedure that the company doesn’t spell out fully.

The final product comes in at 90 proof and is sold in 750mL bottles for a suggested price of $45.

Redwood Empire American Whiskey

Tasting Notes: Redwood Empire American Whiskey 

Vital stats: A blend of bourbon and ryes aged between two and 11 years in either new oak or wine barrels, 90% ABV and sold for about $45 a bottle.

Appearance: A deep, honey-like amber, perhaps a touch redder in hue than the average whiskey.

Nose: Initially hits the nasal passages with a sweet, tropical bouquet of sweet, Mexican vanilla, tangerine, and a bit of spicy sandalwood. As one continues smelling, that evolves into an earthier aroma of apple, caramel, and nutmeg.

Palate: The first sip falls onto the tongue with the flavor of delicate vanilla syrup with faint notes of apple and nutmeg. Those additional flavors build a bit over the next few seconds and begin to take on a spicy character of rye and nutmeg, but the sip generally stays on the sweeter side. The finish brings a gentle wave of rye that gradually works its way from the back of the mouth to the front, leaving a coat of earthy vanilla and a faint tingling that gently flares up on occasion in the back of the mouth.

The Takeaway

I love the idea of blending bourbons and ryes to create a new drinking experience that harnesses the strengths of each, but Redwood Empire ends up being closer to the lowest common denominator of both types. While each makes clear impacts on the flavor, they do so in a way that tends to blunt the effects of the other rather than complement it. That results in a sweet, unobjectionable dram – smooth and easy drinking but not memorable.

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User Rating 3.5 (2 votes)
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