Whiskey Review: Whiskey Del Bac Frontera American Single Malt

, | August 13, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Hamilton Distillers. 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 towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The Whiskey Del Bac brand is produced by Hamilton Distillers Group and bottled in Tuscon, Arizona. This “Frontera” American Single Malt expression is a limited release of only nine hundred bottles and comes to us as the first release under the distillery’s “Global Cask Collection.”

Before a 13-month finish in 500 liter Pedro Ximènez sherry butts (botas), this single malt starts its life as the brand’s copper pot distilled “Classic” that is “modeled after the unpeated style of Speyside Scotches.” According to the distillery, the Whiskey Del Bac brand name is a combination of English, Spanish and Tohono O’odham meaning, “whiskey of the place where the river reappears in the sand.”

The sand referenced in the definition of the Del Bac name is that of the Sonoran Desert. One of four deserts in North America, the Sonoran Desert stretches from southern Arizona through Baja California and into mainland Mexico. Why does this matter?

First, the brand’s marketing includes phrases like, “aged in the desert” and “sip Sonoran” as well as referencing the “terroir” of the American Southwest. Second, Jerez de la Frontera (the whiskey’s namesake) is a former medieval border town located in southwestern Spain known for the region’s sherry producing vineyards.

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In a recent statement, Whiskey Del Bac’s co-founder, Stephen Paul stated, “After learning more about Jerez de la Frontera, we fell in love with the idea that these sherry botas came from one border region to another — the Southwest Desert — where we could create an expression rich in flavor, with a heritage of cultural blending as well.”

Whiskey Del Bac Frontera review

Whiskey Del Bac Frontera (image via Devon Lyon/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Whiskey Del Bac Frontera American Single Malt

Vital Stats: Aged in new American white oak barrels and finished in Pedro Ximènez sherry casks for an additional 13 months. 95 Proof, 47.5% ABV. Mash bill: 100% barley malt. 750ML. SRP: $90.00

Appearance: Likely due in large part to a 13-month finish in sherry botas, this whiskey is an absolutely lovely visual mix of walnut and gingerbread. And if you are sipping Frontera in a cozy, lowlight room, its hue will shift into dark umber.

Nose: I smelled honey, brown sugar, and dried fruit.

Palate: This single malt doesn’t disappoint with an immediately rich, thick and dare I type it… chocolatey first impression (1970s/80s Nestle Quick commercial shoutout). As should be expected, there are sherry notes throughout. I found a medium-length finish that tailed into honey and oak.

According to the release notes, the “recommended serving for Frontera American single malt is with one large ice cube.” So, after my requisite sips neat (in my NEAT glass, no less), I obliged. The result is as you would expect (and I supposed, depending on how long you wait), the ice produced a slightly more mellow affair to what is already a great sipper.

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Summary

Sherry cask finished whiskey certainly has its followers, and I would count myself among those that enjoy the extra complexity and sweetness that the botas impart. The chosen proof (95) is a nice landing spot for this single malt whiskey, and knowing that the distillery encourages sipping it with an ice cube, it likely could have pushed higher and still been quite an enjoyable, and approachable affair.

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Devon Lyon

Devon Lyon has spent the past two decades producing video content as well as writing copy and scripts for clients around the globe. But no matter how strong his natural wanderlust, it’s the Pacific Northwest he calls home. Whether it’s the growing local craft spirit scene, world-class wines, or a...