Whiskey Review: Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye

Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye

Image copyright The Whiskey Wash.

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.

Sonoma County Distilling is a grain-to-glass distillery in, you guessed it, California’s wine-centric famous Sonoma County. They use a direct-fire alembic pot still to create their diverse line of whiskeys, an unusual move that poses some special production (and safety) challenges. In addition to the obvious dangers posed by open flame + alcohol, direct-fire equipment gets very hot, and attracts the attention of the local fire department like moths to a…flame.

It’s worth it, according to the distillers, for the unique flavor it imparts to the spirit. In a recent article in Artisan Distiller, owner Adam Spiegal says “we want to be able to have that little bit of burn, the caramelization. It’s flavor development.”

We recently wrote about the release of this very unusual product, Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye. It was made from Sonoma County Distilling’s 100% rye whiskey, which rested for several months atop a quantity of French black Périgord truffles, a highly coveted culinary truffle grown in the Périgord region of France. They’re exotic, expensive, and sometimes challenging to find in the United States, so it’s not a surprise that Sonoma County Distilling thinks this is the only truffle-infused whiskey on the market today.

Truffles are a bold flavor, and a little goes a long way. When I first got this bottle, I worried it would be overpoweringly truffly, too pungent and earthy to really enjoy. Would my concerns be unfounded?

Tasting Notes: Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye  

Vital Stats: 100 proof, at least one year old, 100% rye with black truffle addition, $80 for a 375ml bottle

Appearance: Medium to dark amber                     

Nose: A lush, slightly damp nose of earth, wet green herbs, and young wood. That pungent truffle funk is present, but not overpowering, alongside warm, dusty spices like cinnamon and clove. Swirling the glass like it’s wine kicks up a more piercing fungus aroma.

 Palate: Rye brings the spice – black pepper, cinnamon, allspice – but there’s definitely something on the earthy side lurking just beneath the surface, with strong notes of mushroom, leather, and bitter aromatic herbs (stemmy thyme?). Sweetness is present but unobtrusive, like one of the more complicated honeys (buckwheat, chestnut). The finish kind of vibrates back and forth between black truffle and rye, first funky, then spicy, finally settling on spice at the exit.

Conclusion:

I’ll be honest, my expectations were sky-high in the “weird” column for Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye, but the truffle character was actually milder than I’d anticipated. That’s probably for the best from a flavor standpoint, but I’d gotten excited to taste something that would make my brain explode with strangeness, and this wasn’t it. However, it did taste pretty darn delicious, so I can’t really say I’m disappointed.

FINAL SCORE: 86/100