Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.
Located in a California wine region known for its refined taste and expensive pleasures, Sonoma County Distilling has been making whiskey since 2010. They have produced for the enjoyment of their customers a 100% rye whiskey, a soft wheat spirit and a classic “West of Kentucky” bourbon.
Doing their distilling on an old world style alembic still, the distillery claims to have more control over the final flavor profile of their distillates than a columnar still could produce. There are pros and cons to every system, with some distillers firmly in one camp or the other. Let the experts claim what they may; the proof is in the product.
The perfect opportunity came to test the alembic claim when a bottle of Sonoma’s new Cherrywood Rye arrived for review. The concept for this whiskey was to create a spirit that had all of the character of a classic Manhattan cocktail without using anything other than grains. To achieve this, their mash bill began with a large proportion of rye, a small amount of unmalted wheat and the addition of cherrywood smoked barley.
In my review I found the color of this whiskey a deep gold tinged with pink. Minimal legs hint at spare sugars, but the nose is intriguing – VSOP brandy, sour cherry and fresh grain mingle with sweet apple candy overtones.
On the palate, the rye pulls sharply forward, followed swiftly with spice and nuts, pekoe tea, oak and Lyle’s golden syrup
The finish is short, with residual allspice, orange peel, wet wood and cloves.
If this is the kind of flavors made possible with 16th century technology, then alembic stills are still powerhouses in the distilling world. Our immediate thought for a possible food pairing turned to this whiskey with duck confit on grilled sourdough points with plum chutney, cracked white pepper and Manchego crisps. But the lingering spices would also compliment a hazelnut meringue with sweet cream and praline, which, in fact, it did. Quite well.
Sonoma County Distilling Co. is not out of place in their region, or in any well-stocked whiskey cabinet. Their pricing at $55 is high for the genre, but competitive in their class. And that is what this spirit has – definite class.
I give the Sonoma County Distilling Cherrywood Rye Whiskey 89 Points + 2 more for ingenuity.
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Tish Lester is a former restauranteur whose love of good flavors led her to the world of whiskey, where she is an avid participant, having attended nosings, tastings and master classes throughout Europe and the United States. She has recently discovered the truth that for every moment in our lives,...