Whiskey Review Round Up: Orange County Distillery (Bourbon, Rye, Single Malt) - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: Orange County Distillery (Bourbon, Rye, Single Malt)

Orange County Distillery in Goshen, New York, identifies fiercely as a farm-to-bottle producer, so much so that their spirits are served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, one of the nation’s most critically-acclaimed and exclusive farm-to-table restaurants.

This ethos is at the center of their brand image, and seems to be a source of pride in addition to being a simply amazing achievement. What started as a humble farming operation with a sugar beet surplus in upstate New York has since become one of the most independent and self-sufficient distilleries in the United States.

John Glebocki, the farmer who co-founded OCD, grows every single ingredient used in the production of his line of spirits at the distillery’s adjoining farm, which include beets for vodka, botanicals for gin, and grains for their whiskeys. Each bottle, right underneath the batch number, has handwritten numbers which correspond to the fields in which that bottle’s ingredients were grown.

Flash forward to 2016, and the flagship sugar beet vodka that started it all is now rarely available, and the focus seems to have shifted to their growing line of brown spirits. Also last year, Orange County Distillery took home American Craft Spirit Association silver medals for both their corn whiskey and bourbon. Some say it’s the special ‘black dirt’ of Orange County (this is the Orange County of New York, not California), a mineral-rich soil which imparts an earthy terroir in to each ingredient, that gives these spirits their uniqueness. Whatever it is that makes these whiskeys so interesting, we are committed to investigating.

Orange County Distillery

image via Jim Bonomo/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Orange County Distillery Bourbon Whiskey

92 Proof. Distilled from locally grown grains. Aged 7 months. $40/375ml.

The first sample pours a pleasant amber color and appears to lack a certain viscosity. The aroma is quite pointed, bringing the evil acetone to the forefront, and there’s a sweet/sour contrast in the nose, too, which imparts an overall minor but present buttery vanilla note. There is also a faint hit of freshly cleaned pool here.

I was not surprised after tasting to be overwhelmed with a harshness on the palate. The flavors that are there are classic and oak-heavy, but they dissipate quickly making room for a flabby mouthfeel and out-of-balance alcohol heat. Further sips unfortunately let the good flavors wash away and leave the drinker with repeated hits of a bitter, chemical-like flavor and film on the tongue. Notes of freshly cut hay and cabbage linger.





Tasting Notes: Orange County Distillery Aged Rye Whiskey

91.4 Proof. Distilled from locally grown grains. Aged 6 months. $40/375ml.

This sample pours a more golden yellow color, and seems slightly more viscous. There is a slight orange glow about it, which makes it a very attractive pour. Initial aroma is extremely herbal, with hints of lavender, mint, and a heavy note of dried black tea. There is obviously rye here, and a more familiar smell draws me back in to the experience after the weird bourbon.

The first thing I notice is that the rye is both very dry and harsh on the palate. There is a nice salty crispness that I associate with rye, and a mega-intense alcohol burn to boot. The overall experience feels dusty, and there isn’t much silky or smooth about it that provides any balance to this desert in a glass. Further acclamation to the liquid starts to bring fusels in to the aromatic profile, and makes things a little more messy. This rye feels birthed before its time, but has potential.





Tasting Notes: Orange County Distillery Single Malt Whiskey

94.6 Proof. Distilled from locally-grown peat-smoked barley. Aged 10 months. $40/375ml.

Solid orange pour with some viscosity haze and dainty, quick legs. My first impression of the smell of this single malt leads to the immediate image of an ashtray, dirty and overstuffed, that sat in the rain for days. Then I remember there’s peat smoke to it, but it’s there without any of the other complexities that, say, a peaty Scotch typically has. Once my mind adjusts to the stale, one-dimensional peat aroma here, it’s no longer gross – just uninteresting.

The combination of sweetness and smokiness as it is found here creates a very odd flavor once first hitting the tongue, one reminiscent of moth balls, buttered popcorn, and cigarettes all mashed together. Continued sips bring the weird peat-without-iodine flavor to the forefront and it keeps going with a long, astringent linger. I think the only successful application for this product would be mixology, where other ingredients can be added to mute the rough edges and take advantage of these big, messy flavors in small doses.






Final Thoughts

The whiskey in these bottles has value, but not nearly as much as the branding that Orange County Distillery has created to promote it. Our current world is one in which the source of what you ingest is of the utmost importance. People will choose to buy OCD’s products for this reason, but flavor should be truly be the determining factor in such purchasing. And overall, how do they taste? Not very good. Keep your eye on the rye for improvement and potentially a longer aging time in the future. I’d probably bite on a two-year version of that product.


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