There are such a lot of young-ish distilleries and bourbon-focused whiskey manufacturers in the marketplace, that in recent times I’ve more and more discovered myself successfully ignoring sure firms labeled as “up and comers,” no less than till they debut their very own spirit. On some stage, that is only a operate of attempting to keep away from palate fatigue—I style so many samples throughout a big selection of spirits that I primarily need to style new ones with some iota of novelty to them, somewhat than one other iteration of sourced whiskey from the standard suspects of the business. And on this method, an organization like Redwood Empire can slip underneath my radar for just a few years.
Redwood Empire Whiskeys are produced by the Sonoma, California-based Graton Distillery, and launched their flagship manufacturers (Pipe Dream, Emerald Big, Misplaced Monarch) again in 2019, primarily as sourced whiskey from the ever-present MGP of Indiana. These whiskeys rapidly gathered a loyal following, particularly for his or her relative worth in the marketplace across the $40 vary, however I by no means acquired round to tasting them, as my dance card was at all times full. Final yr, nevertheless, they debuted their very own in-house product with the primary batch of bottled-in-bond expressions, a bourbon and a rye, dubbed Grizzly Beast and Rocket High. That collection has now continued with its second launch, and it’s time for me to lastly familiarize myself with what Redwood Empire has been doing for the previous few years.
Maybe unsurprisingly, the pure world is the supply of inspiration for these whiskeys and their names—they’re each named for bushes, with Grizzly Beast being a portmanteau of “Grizzly Big” and “Mattole Beast,” whereas Rocket High is a reference to a 365-foot coastal redwood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. At this level, each of those batches at the moment are 5 years outdated, exceeding the 4-year requirement for the federal definition of bottled-in-bond whiskey. They’re each bottled on the anticipated 50% ABV (100 proof).
Notably, each of those batches have uncommon, four-grain mash payments. The Grizzly Beast Bourbon is a high-rye product with 66% corn, 23% rye, 7% wheat and 4% malted barley. It aged for 5 years in toasted, #3 charred barrels. The rye is much more uncommon, as Rocket High can be a four-grain mash invoice of 87% rye, 5% wheat, 5% malted barley and a mere 3% corn, likewise aged in toasted #3 char barrels.
As ever, this sort of launch is a crucial second within the historical past of a younger distillery, their first true likelihood to make a press release of rules to the world about how their in-house product will differ from the sourced whiskey they’ve been promoting. And I’m completely satisfied to report that each of those bottles find yourself capturing one thing fairly distinctive, though the $90 MSRP for each expressions is a somewhat bitter capsule to swallow. It’s after all a actuality that whiskey manufacturing has develop into way more costly within the wake of the pandemic and subsequent inflation, however that $90 MSRP does characterize a reasonably large hurdle for a 5-year-old, BiB whiskey, and it’s a little bit bit out of line from the doubtless expectation out there set by different equally aged manufacturers comparable to New Riff, Woodinville or Wilderness Path. It simply implies that Redwood Empire has to work that a lot tougher to actually make these whiskeys stand out.
So with that mentioned, let’s get to tasting.
Redwood Empire’s in-house bourbon leads off on the nostril with juicy cherry, countered by cornbread, caramel and a candy spiciness paying homage to Dr. Pepper. Maybe barely sizzling on the nostril, it’s nonetheless very fruit ahead, which I often take pleasure in, and suggests an awesome depth of sweetness.
On the palate, this one is a beautiful mixture of fruit and spice, with some actually brilliant pink fruit notes, mixed with darker tones suggestive of Luxardo maraschino cherries. There’s loads of caramel, together with cinnamon, brown sugar and cola spice, and a suggestion of stem ginger. You’re additionally introduced with thrives of toasted oak, and maybe a little bit of black tea-like maltiness. Residual sweetness is on the upper aspect, and this can actually enchantment to bourbon followers who love the cherry notice. You definitely can’t say that it’s hurting for character, individuality, or approachability.
Is it a $90 bottle? That’s tougher to say, however I’m snug saying that it’s one of many higher “that is our first in-house bourbon” impressions I’ve had in current reminiscence.
Redwood Empire’s rye may be very clearly a rye whiskey on the nostril, and isn’t an expression one may ever mistake for bourbon, even in comparison with their high-rye bourbon recipe. That’s not too shocking, given the 87% rye within the grist right here, nevertheless it additionally confidently strides in its personal route, compared with one thing like the ever present 95% rye recipe from MGP. This one finds its personal route.
On the nostril, first impression is of heavy rye grain, together with spice, herbaceousness and licorice. Beneath, nevertheless, there are different spice notes of a hotter dimension, paying homage to one thing nearly like cumin, whereas sweeter impressions then come ahead—candied orange peel and heavy vanilla.
On the palate, Rocket High is perfumey and a little bit bit resinous, with pink peppercorn and notably floral vanilla, fused with herbaceousness and basic rye spice. It is a little on the sweeter aspect for a excessive rye content material rye whiskey, and the extent of vanilla is particularly notable, giving this a barely decadent really feel, pairing properly with toasted, gently spicy oak. For some drinkers, this can doubtless register as too candy, however many others can be gained over by its relative complexity at this age assertion and proof level.
Once more, pinning down worth is a trickier proposition. However on the very least, Redwood Empire has launched a pair of bottled in bond whiskeys that make assured, individualist appeals to the drinker’s senses. That’s a win in our ebook.
Jim Vorel is a Paste employees author and resident beer and liquor geek. You’ll be able to for extra drink writing.