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Bourbon

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon 2023

$70.00

OVERALL
RATING

7

Whiskey Review: Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon 2023

Tasting Notes:

About:
A blend of 4 to 12 year aged bourbons. 116.8 proof (58.4% ABV). $70/750ml.
Appearance:
Orange amber.
Nose:
Nutmeg spice immediately appears. Toffee and toasted walnuts fill the body underneath the spice.
Palate:
Warm caramel with coffee grinds coat the tongue, while subtle fruit of black figs roll over orange marmalade. The finish is a bit medicinal but is bracketed with soft butterscotch.
Finish:
Comments:
A solid bourbon that does what a bourbon should and I would by no means turn down a glass of it. However, for the cask strength expression, I was expecting a bit more umph and richness of classic bourbon flavors, or at least something to set it apart from others. If you’re a Redwood Empire fan, this bottle would do just fine, but it is not the tallest tree in the forest.

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. 

Ancient monoliths rise precipitously out of thick ferns and misty foliage, invoking the majesty of a time when giants stalked the earth. If you’ve ever been to the redwood forests that guard the North California coastline, you know exactly the scene I’m talking about. These giants inspire awe, rising up hundreds of feet on trunks large enough to fit a car through. So it is with excitement that I reviewed the three cask strength whiskeys from California’s Redwood Empire Distillery. 

Redwood Empire Distilling got its start by selecting and sourcing  whiskey distilled elsewhere to create whiskeys of distinct character as they grew their operation. By 2015, the company settled on three expressions for their core range: The Pipe Dream Bourbon, the Emerald Giant Rye, and the Lost Monarch, each named after a notable ancient redwood tree.

Each whiskey is a blend of whiskeys, including a portion of their own in-house distillate. The whiskey is aged on the North California coast line, a place founder Derek Benham and master distiller Jeff Duckhorn chose because of its consistent climate and humidity. This allows for a slow and even extraction in the aging process, as opposed to the highly variable temperatures seen in the aging of Kentucky or Tennessee whiskey. 

In October of 2022, Redwood Empire released its first cask strength version of core range. “We are extremely proud of the craft and complexity that our Cask Strength showcases,” said Master Distiller Jeff Duckhorn at the time. “Experiencing Redwood Empire straight from the barrel is the preferred way I enjoy our whiskeys!” These expressions were wildly successful, each winning awards from several spirit conventions and garnering high ratings from review panels. 

What sets apart cask strength whiskeys from others you ask?  Purists argue that cask strength whiskey is the ideal form as it gives you the greatest access to the original product, straight from the cask, undiluted by added water, and is almost always non-chill filtered, meaning nothing has been removed from the whiskey to make it appear clearer.

In this state, the whiskey allows a drinker to have the greatest control over how much water to add, if any (there is a compelling case for why some should be added), instead of being decided by the distiller. A good comparison is the use of manual transmission by race car drivers as they provide advantage of efficiency and control over automatics, even though automatics offer an easier driving experience to the average consumer.

For example, when drinking bourbon, I prefer a cask strength spirit with a single medium ice cube. The cooler temperature and slight dilution allows me to enjoy more of the caramel and toasted oak flavors.

To the spirit being reviewed today, the Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon is a blend of multiple bourbons, ranging from 4 to 12 years in age. It has a mash bill of approximately 74% corn, 20% rye, 1.5% wheat, and 4.5% malted barley, which lead me to believe it would trend toward the spicier side of bourbons. I was unable to discern the effect the wheat had on the overall dram, but am sure one exists. The 116.8 proof (58.4%) is certainly a kick in the teeth, but is by no means outside the normal range of cask strength whiskeys.

What Redwood Empire does right is find a classic bourbon flavor which the distillers can be proud of, loaded with toasted oak and caramel, without relying on one flavor too heavily. Yet, despite their success, the Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon does not find a way to set itself apart in an already saturated market.

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon 2023 review
We review Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon 2023, a blend of multiple bourbons, ranging from 4 to 12 years in age, that’s bottled at 116.8 proof. (image via Redwood Empire Whiskey)

Tasting Notes: Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Cask Strength Bourbon 2023

Vital Stats: A blend of 4 to 12 year aged bourbons. 116.8 proof (58.4% ABV). $70/750ml. 

Appearance: Orange amber.

Nose: Nutmeg spice immediately appears. Toffee and toasted walnuts fill the body underneath the spice. 

Palate: Warm caramel with coffee grinds coat the tongue, while subtle fruit of black figs roll over orange marmalade. The finish is a bit medicinal but is bracketed with soft butterscotch.

Jeffrey Nitschke

I am a Portland area attorney whose career has dovetailed with a love of fine spirits and cigars. With no formal training in the field, my own interest spurred a thorough education through books, articles, visits to distilleries all over the United States, and a few deep dives into Wikipedia. Outside of my career and ever escalating pursuit of good whiskey, I can be found enjoying CrossFit, gardening, and playing music.

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