Whiskey Review: Barber's Single Malt Rye Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash
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Whiskey Review: Barber's Single Malt Rye Whiskey

Barber's Single Malt Rye

Photo by Carin Moonin. Image copyright The Whiskey Wash.

Before I drank whiskey, I drank wine. But it’s not a one or the other thing; they dwell equally in my heart—and liver. It’s like that song we used to sing in Brownies: “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.”

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Barber Cellars in Petaluma, California, has been making wine commercially since 2007; they currently are putting out two zinfandels. According to their website, husband and wife team Mike and Lorraine Barber live and work 100% Sonoma: They live in Petaluma, and make all their wines in Santa Rosa from Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Coast vineyards. In the past year, they’ve come out with a single malt rye.

Inspired by the many California-based brands that make rye whiskey from scratch (such as Old Potrero, which I was lucky enough to taste last year and totally adored), the Barbers developed their own rye whiskey. Because winery licenses don’t let you distill onsite, the Barbers partner with a local brewer and distiller to mash, distill, and age the rye.

Legally, any rye whiskey can be called rye that as long as it’s 51% rye; the remainder can be any combination of corn, barley, or wheat. Since rye turns into a thick, sticky mess during mashing, many distillers shy away from using it in a higher proportion – but not Barber’s Single Malt Rye Whiskey. It’s 100% malted rye, double distilled in a copper pot still, and aged in new, heavy char American Oak casks. It is bottled without filtration.

Tasting Notes: Barber’s Single Malt Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: 90 proof, aged 2.5 years, 100% rye, $40 for 375 ml.

Appearance: Light amber; a polished cabin floor of shiny maple wood.

Nose: It’s interesting that this rye has its provenance in wine, because it’s got kind of a vineyard smell. I imagine this is what crush season smells like. Also, there’s sweetness there: maple sugar, candy corn. On top of that: McIntosh apples.

Palate: Paradoxically, this doesn’t taste to me like a typical rye, even though it’s 100% rye. Or maybe it’s redefining how I think of rye, which is cool, too. This is sweet, but not like an intentionally sweet food. It reminds me of fried plantains, but it doesn’t have any kind of oily mouthfeel – more like that balanced freshness. Light vanilla. This rye finishes well-rounded and soft, like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a wonderful meal.

Final thoughts

Honestly? I will be hoarding this. I want only the most special people in my life to give it a try. If this is only the Barbers’ first attempt, I’m so excited to see what they do next. This makes me want to get in my car to drive down to Petaluma and sample the Barber wines—and then have a designated driver take me the rest of the way. More, please!

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