Whiskey Review: Sonoma Rye Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Sonoma Rye Whiskey

Sonoma County is best known for producing wine, and the city is home to a vibrant food and beverage scene. Yet wine’s not the only game in town. In 2010, Adam Spiegel and his team at Sonoma County Distilling set out break the mold by creating craft whiskey in a wine market by founding Sonoma County Distillers. This makes them a fairly new distillery, but they are still one of the first 200 distilleries to open in the United States. They focus on sourcing only the finest non-GMO grains from California and they handle every aspect of production in house.

Sonoma County Distillers are part of the first generation ofdistillers in Sonoma County as described by Sonoma Magazine. I had the pleasure of tasting their Sonoma Rye Whiskey and I must note that the sample I tasted is from batch number one, bottle number 6, bottled January 25th, 2014. It is double distilled in direct fire alembic copper pot stills, a very traditional technique. The Sonoma Rye Whiskey is 100% rye, unfiltered and aged in small new charred American oak barrels. It is then finished in old wood to give the whiskey distinct notes of vanilla and white pepper. The resulting whiskey is a viscous, high-ester driven spirit.

Sonoma County Distillers strives to continually improve their brand with each new product and batch. Adam Spiegel even goes on to describe their operation as “There are no “Masters” here per say; we’re just regular people striving every day to better themselves and their craft.” Which may explain why I found the Sonoma Rye Whiskey to be complex but very unbalanced. Perhaps this is a result of their experimental mindset and unique take on rye whiskey, and since I did try their first batch I can only look forward to trying future batches to see how they improve.

Sonoma Rye Whiskey

image Joe Frade/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Sonoma Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: 96 Proof, 48% ABV, 100% Rye.

Appearance: The bottle definitely gives this whiskey the appearance of a vintage craft spirit. Once it is poured into a Glencairn glass, Sonoma Rye whiskey takes on an orange amber color with a viscous clear halo and long oily legs.

Nose: Sonoma Rye Whiskey gives off a lot of sweet fruit notes reminiscent of apricot and apple cider with a hint of freshly cut wood.

Palate: The palate is very complex with heavy wheat and herbal notes with a very faint sweetness. There are cardamom spice and artichoke notes mixed in with young oak that leaves a musty hop finish. Dilution definitely recommended as it helps bring out some sweet vanilla and fruit notes.

The Takeaway

Sonoma Rye Whiskey is a young 100% rye whiskey which could benefit from dilution and a few years of distilling experience. The fact that it is quick aged in small barrels could be adding to the unbalanced wood notes that fight the complex fruit flavors. However, I can only imagine that recent batches of Sonoma Rye Whiskey will improve with a few years of experience and some quality controls.

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Joe Frade