Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Double Circle Spirits. 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.
Johnson Farm, a family wheat farm, brings the label Double Circle Spirits from grain to glass with a line of vodkas and whiskeys. Speaking with Jason Johnson from Double Circle Spirits, they aren’t distilling themselves but they are involved in every step of the process. All the wheat used in their products comes from their farm. The corn for their bourbon is sourced from other farms in Oregon as their farms are all dry farming, with no irrigation. New Deal Distillery distills the product, but Double Circle selects the mash bill, barrels, and aging time, making this 100% their own expression. Jason had to actually take a year off of production after the wildfires hit their farm, as he did not want to compromise on the product in their bottles being from their own grain.
For this review I am looking at Double Circle Spirits’ Small Batch Straight Bourbon and Single Barrel Straight Bourbon. Both bottles follow a 51% corn 49% soft white wheat mash bill. This lends itself to a sweeter, mellow flavor profile. The Small Batch comes in at 45% ABV while the Single Barrel I am reviewing is 62.7% ABV. While the term small batch and single barrel mean nothing legally, they attempt to inform on the production of the whiskey. Double Circle Spirits’ website provides that their single barrels are a once a year pick of a single 53 gallon barrel.
What does have legal meaning and can tell you a lot about the production of the product is the term Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) handles all the legal definitions and oversees all label designs of alcohol on the market. The TTB defines Bourbon whiskey as being made in America, being made with at least 51% corn, being distilled to an ABV of no greater than 80%, being barreled at an ABV of no greater than 62.5%, and aged in charred new oak barrels. The addition of the term Straight in front of it adds the requirements that it be aged for at least two years and it comes from no more than two distilleries from the same state.
Bourbon mash bills with wheat are a little more limited, but highly enjoyed. Some of the more well known wheated bourbons include Maker’s Mark, Weller, and Pappy Van Winkle. These are largely a category of easy sippers due to the soft nature of wheat in the distillate. They take on a lot of caramel and vanilla of the oak while remaining lighter than something with rye in the mash bill.
While Double Circle Spirits’ products are a bit young, so is the company. I look forward to seeing them grow this side of the family business and seeing the decisions they will make with their products in the future. Currently they appear to only be available in the Oregon market. They have a mission in mind with making their wheat into a delicious spirit and I think they have taken a great first step. I look forward to seeing what they can do with a little more time in the barrel.
Double Circle Spirits Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey (image via Ian Arnold)
Tasting Notes: Double Circle Small Batch Straight Bourbon
Vital Stats: 45% ABV, no age statement, 51% corn and 49% soft white wheat, $54.95 a bottle.
Appearance: It is light honey amber in color with legs that take a moment to develop but fall quickly.
Nose: The nose is quite sweet. Honey, vanilla and caramel are the prominent notes. Oak, ethanol, and just a little hint of cinnamon come out beneath the sweet notes.
Taste: It tastes heavily of oak. There is a mild heat to it that I find pleasant. There are hints of the sweet vanilla and caramel but it is quickly lost to a dry woody finish. Finish stays with you for a while with a little transition from oak to dry hay. The addition of water eliminates the heat and makes this bourbon pretty one note of just oak on the palate. Finish becomes relatively short when watered down.
Tasting Notes: Double Circle Single Barrel Straight Bourbon
Vital Stats: 62.7% ABV, no age statement, 51% corn and 49% soft white wheat, $69.95 a bottle.
Appearance: Rich amber honey in color. Has some thick legs that were fairly quick to develop.
Nose: Brown sugar and cherries are the first thing I get. I’m surprised by how little of the ethanol I smell on this.
Taste: Surprisingly light and dry on the palate. I do get some of the brown sugar. The cherry from the nose becomes that kind of artificial cherry flavor, but remains subtle so as not to be unpleasant. Finish is largely brown sugar and oak with just a touch of vanilla. You can certainly feel the proof but I didn’t find it to have that much of a burn. It left my tongue a little tingly. Water brought out more fruit notes and subdued the brown sugar a bit. Water shortens the finish quite a bit.
Final Thoughts: Overall these are solid wheated bourbons. I’d much rather grab a bottle of the small batch than a bottle of Maker’s Mark. And the single barrel was a solid barrel pick with some unique characteristics. If you are looking for a mellow bourbon that has those sweeter notes, Double Circle Spirits’ Bourbon is worth checking out.