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.
California’s renowned Napa Valley is known much more for world-class wine than whiskey. Some there, however, such as well-regarded winemaker Dave Phinney, have also chosen the distillery route. Phinney’s operation, known as Savage & Cooke, opened on the historic Mare Island back in 2018. Working alongside master distiller and Breckenridge Distillery co-founder Jordan Via, Phinney released three new whiskeys with a distinctly Californian flair last year.
For Phinney, he began his journey into wine in 1998, founding his first label with a couple of tons of zinfandel. He cut his teeth for the next decade after that, making wine for himself and others while developing a well-regarded industry reputation. From here, he developed an interest in spirits, leading to the eventual development and opening of Savage & Cooke.
Phinney’s choice of location for said distillery is unique in that Mare Island is a former naval shipyard. He was drawn there due to its history, plentiful space, unique brownstone buildings, and proximity to both the Napa Valley and San Francisco.
The whiskey I’m reviewing today, Savage & Cooke American Whiskey, is a bit of a holdover from Phinney’s early days in the spirits world. Purchased by Savage & Cooke as a sourced whiskey, ex-bourbon barrels aged what would become this expression for a minimum of four years, sometimes longer, at the distillery. Made from a mash bill of 66% corn, 30% rye, and 4% malted barley, a portion was transferred to Phinney’s Zinfandel barrels for finishing for about two months to add “flavor, texture, and character.”
Savage & Cooke American Whiskey, bottled at a cask strength of 113 proof, is priced at $55.