I just polished off my bottle of this and I have to start the review by saying it’s not often these days that I run across a true craft (as in made at a real, small distillery) whiskey for under $40 that is excellent for sitting down and sipping. Our story begins in San Francisco, California, circa 2019. I was ensconced in my company-paid shoebox of a hotel room preparing for a nearly week-long conference. Not a whisky conference, mind you, a boring “real work” one. Before I turned in for the night, I decided to do what has become a tradition for me when in a new place for more than a few days: Go find a bottle of whiskey for the room.
I found the nearest liquor store on my phone and speed-walked the bustling Embarcadero sidewalks to get there before it closed. After eyeing row after row of familiar whisky with prices marked up between 10 and 50 percent higher than I’m used to (ahh, the City), I settled on an unknown: Woodinville rye from Washington State for $40 a bottle. Back in my hotel, I popped it open for a nightcap and was subsequently wowed.
Woodinville 100% Rye is a straight rye that is pot distilled by Woodinville Whiskey Company in Woodinville, Washington state. The distillery, established in 2010, was acquired in 2017 by Moët Hennessy (LVMH), which might explain why it’s now popping up on store shelves. All of the grain for distillation comes locally, from the Omlin Family Farm. This particular release is 100% rye with no corn, malted rye, or other grains in the mash bill, and is bottled at a reasonable 45% ABV.
How old is it? Well, technically as a Straight Rye that does not have an age statement on the bottle, it should legally be 4 years or older. How likely is a small craft distillery to follow Federal labeling requirements to the letter? Unknown, but anecdotal sources online say the whiskey is 5 years old.
A quick note that there were some particles floating around in the bottle. When I’ve seen such things before, they were usually black and were likely bits of charcoal or cask debris that escaped the barrier filtering process. These appear to be more like minuscule bits of cork. It’s also possible that these are proteins, congeners, or other compounds that naturally precipitated (came out of solution) after bottling. They did not affect the flavor of the whiskey, and I didn’t notice them while drinking. They also appear in the second bottle that I bought after enjoying the first one so much.
Nose: Unctuous, dripping, sticky cherries. Fresh apple cider. A hint of eucalyptus. Some rye spices – clove, allspice, cinnamon – but in their candied form. A good amount of complexity – there are aromas I can’t name – an appropriate nose tickle, and no off-notes. Balanced. Holy crud it’s even better after a rest in the glass.
Palate: Medium body. A strong tongue burn – tastes more like 50% ABV – followed by a full jar of maraschino cherries including the syrup. Tart, fruity, spiced. Yum.
Finish: Medium length. A reprise of the same. Damned if this whiskey ain’t consistent. A little nuttiness as the flavors fade, including only the barest amount of not-even-bitter charcoal. Oaky, at last, but without tannins.
With Water: A few drops of water – is it possible? – increase the candied fruit notes, adding some fruit punch. The palate seems thinner, the finish sweeter. Water is not needed here, really, but also doesn’t hurt.
Overall: Wow. Just… what? Wow. This stuff is amazing, and it’s only $40? And it’s “craft”?! Why has nobody told me about this before? Ok… calm down, Noob. $40 is a bit high considering the quality straight ryes available at nearly half the price (Rittenhouse 100, Hochstadter’s), but this is most certainly sipping whiskey. A lot of those delectable fruit and spice notes would be lost or at least compromised in a cocktail. I am happy sipping a glass of this, neat, in place of most bourbons under $50. If you’ve been of the opinion that upstart “craft” distillation in the United States is a lot of noise and no walnuts then you owe it to yourself to find a bottle of this and get some education.