Whiskey Review: Straight Edge Bourbon - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Straight Edge Bourbon

Straight Edge BourbonWe’ve all heard the guy-quits-his-day-job-to-start-a-craft-distillery narrative a thousand times. Sometimes the guy worked in telecomm, sometimes IT. Maybe he traveled to Scotland and had a spiritual awakening (pun intended). Maybe his great-grandpa used to work at Van Winkle or Old Forester. Maybe he comes from Kentucky or Tennessee, or maybe he simply describes himself as a “renaissance man.”

But what if the guy was a winemaker?

It seems Splinter Group, a non-distilling producer in Napa, California, is the answer. Originally founded in 2013 by John Wilkinson of Bin to Bottle and Dave Phinney of Orin Swift, as of this August, production is headed up by Steve Matthiasson and Bob Cabral, both successful Napa Valley winemakers and now part of the venture as a result of a majority stake purchase by Vintage Wine Estates.

The backstory is that winemakers, like many of us, often kick back with a beer after a hard day of work. “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine!” is reportedly an old winemakers’ joke. One day, the guys at Splinter Group were drinking beer and started wondering whether it also takes a lot of wine to make great whiskey (what does it take to make great beer? Water?). I should also note that Phinney, as we’ve reported before, has an interest in spirits that dates back more than a decade to a fateful taxi ride with a Caribbean driver who once distilled rum in his bathtub.

Splinter Group has finished and bottled two whiskeys to date, Slaughter House American Whiskey and Straight Edge Bourbon. As far the latter goes, it’s a blend of five-, seven-, and eight-year-old bourbon from Kentucky and Tennessee, “approximately 70% corn with a balance of rye and wheat.” It’s finished in Napa cabernet barrels and bottled at 84 proof. 

Tasting Notes: Straight Edge Bourbon

Color: Polished mahogany

Nose: Typical bourbon notes like vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar mix with juicy dark fruit—blackberry and currant. I also get a pretty strong oak note.

Palate: Big and mouth-filling, with more fruit and caramel coming in up front. Some warm spice shows up on the mid-palate. The finish is all oak and wine, echoing the barrel it came out of.

Final Thoughts:

Straight Edge Bourbon is a perfectly good bourbon, with a nice balance of flavors and good texture. The wine barrel finish certainly adds something to the typical bourbon flavor profile, but there’s nothing particularly interesting or unexpected here, either.



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