Sonoma County Distilling, located in Rohnert Park, CA and opened in 2010, uses direct-fired copper alembic pot stills for its whiskies, which are twice-distilled (like most single-malt scotches, which are also distilled in pot stills). The 100% rye in the mashbill is a combination of unmalted Canadian rye and malted rye from the UK.
The “other” Diageo Bourbon, I.W. Harper is another resurrected brand. The Bernheim brothers began selling I.W. Harper in 1879 and it has been (like most Bourbon brands) sold several times since. It saw a 20-year hiatus in the US, although it has been sold continuously in Japan. Now, Diageo is bringing it back in two forms.
…both bourbons are made from a mashbill of 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley (for enzymes). At more than twice the price of its NAS sibling, the 10-year is essentially the same juice, but aged for a full 10 years in charred white American oak barrels and bottled at a very slightly higher 91.2 proof (45.6% ABV).
I got a batch of samples from Exclusive Malts’ new 2015 releases… These bottlings tend to go quickly and aren’t widely distributed to begin with, so if you’re interested in any of these… well, it may already be too late. Oops.
Elijah Craig 12 is a small-batch bourbon made by prolific distiller Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky, and is named after Reverend Elijah Craig who is apocryphally credited with the invention of oak aging of corn whisky to create bourbon.
A very nicely balanced nose, with both tart and sweet notes in harmony. I could wish for some hint of rye spice and a more robust finish. Eagle Rare 10 is a very different animal than Buffalo Trace, despite being made at the same distillery from the same mash bill. While I would definitely drink this neat, with those orange and cherry notes it’s practically begging to be made into an Old Fashioned (no actual cherry and orange please, keep it subtle).
A big bourbon with a lot to offer. High-rye mashbill, and the resulting “spice cabinet” really permeates the experience. If you like baking spices in your whisky, you will LOVE this.
I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that the statement “Older is not always better” has proven true in my own experience. Sorry. The good news is that you can take it with a grain of salt
Cost $27 but drinks like a $45 bourbon. A hefty 100 proof gives weight, and the rye-inflected standard bourbon notes are all accounted for and in the proper proportions. I could wish for a little more silkiness in the body and a bit more caramel and less charcoal in the wood notes, but all around a decent workhorse whiskey. A few drops of water elevate it to a $55 bourbon. Did I mention it was $27?
Independent bottlers. Are you paying more and getting less for distillery throwaways? Or will you get lucky and pay bargain dollars for something fantastic that will be gone forever once the last drop is consumed? For some (including me), that’s a lot of gamble for upwards of $50 to $80. On this particular day, I got lucky.