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 versus whiskey. Some there, however, such as well regarded winemaker Dave Phinney, have chosen to go the distillery route as well. 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 last year three new whiskeys with a distinctly Californian flair to them.
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 very well regarded reputation in the industry. From here he developed an interest in spirits, and this led 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 apparently 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 here today, Savage & Cooke Rye Whiskey, started with grains grown within 50 miles of the distillery (mash bill: 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% malted barley). With all areas of production happening at Savage & Cooke, spring water from Phinney’s high elevation mountain property in Alexander Valley, not far from the distillery, was used in the process. Five batches of distillate were blended at a time prior to barreling, and initial aging occured for a minimum of three years in new white American oak barrels hand-crafted by local cooper Seguin Moreau.
After initial aging in those barrels, a portion of the rye was transferred to Phinney’s Grenache barrels for a period of about two months. Final bottling occurred at 100 proof.