Jul 29, 2017

Visiting Sonoma County Distilling and West of Kentucky Bourbon No.3...

Adam Spiegel pouring his whiskey // July 2017

I first met Adam Spiegel the owner and the head distiller of Sonoma County Distilling Company maybe five years ago at the legendary The Last Hurrah bar in Boston during a Whisky Live week. Our mutual friend Robin Robinson introduced us to each other... Although I didn't know his whisky back then his attitude, directness and self-confidence left an impression on me. Not much later I had the chance to sample a few expressions from his distillery and since I moved to West Coast visiting the distillery was on top of my to do list. So, naturally a couple of weeks ago when we hit the road from Los Angeles to Northern California Sonoma County Distilling Company was the first destination.

distillery's first alembic still // July 2017
After an extensive tour and going over the entire process in every little detail Adam also showed us the new buildings adjacent to the current distillery which he is planning to move into in a few months. They are expanding with the addition of two brand new Forsyth stills from Scotland and also building new warehouses to accommodate the soon to be increased capacity. Right now the distillery runs on five small capacity alembic stills. He is planning to keep all of the stills operational though even after receiving the new ones to keep the possibility of distilling different style of whiskies and to continue experimenting.

In Sonoma County Distilling Company they are committed in pot still distillation and direct fire heating. They believe in open top / wild yeast fermentation and in longer maturation times using larger size barrels. They want transparency on labels, aim to be totally clean energy driven in near future and to continue to invest in innovation. They even experiment with water where they age some of it in casks.

stills at Sonoma Distilling Company // July 2017

At the end Adam has one very specific goal in this business. He says out loud that he wants to produce the best whisky in the world... Simple as that... And he is serious about it. Well, for my two cents he already showed that he has the patience, persistence, energy and discipline needed for his goal... He is young, amped, motivated and he is even more self-confident now than he was five years ago. I cannot wait to revisit the distillery after the move is complete and when spirit starts to drip from the new stills into the spirits safe. I want to witness the progress while it is happening...

After the tour we sat down together with Adam around the table in the tasting room and geeked out about everything related to whisky making and about the industry while we were tasting his whiskeys. The line-up consisted of Sonoma Rye Whiskey, West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1, No.2 and No.3, Cherrywood Rye Whiskey, 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey and Black Truffle Rye. We ended up picking a bottle of West of Kentucky Bourbon No.3 and Black Truffle Rye to bring back home and today I will be tasting first West of Kentucky Bourbon No.3...

tasting line-up // July 2017


Sonoma County Distilling West of Kentucky Bourbon No.3 (46.5%): This is the third and the newest bourbon recipe released by Sonoma County Distilling Company. It is a high-rye mash bill using yellow corn sourced from Midwest, rye from Canada and malted barley from Wyoming. The whisky is at least a year old and bottled in Summer of 2017.

Color: Medium amber.

Nose: Pine cones, garam masala and cloves. Fresh quince slices, cumin and dry hay. It is pretty young and full of piney aromas. It noses like hiking on a trail through a dense pine forest on a very hot summer morning... Dry red soil, tree barks and dead grass. Dried apricots, unripe peaches and sage.

Palate: Baked quince jam, peach pie, cinnamon dusting and nutmeg. The palate is significantly less piney and more fruity compared to the nose... Rounded, sweeter and way more balanced. Ginger jam and green wood shavings. Gets better and better after allowing the whiskey to air a good amount of time. Cappuccino, milk chocolate and white pepper. 

Finish: Long with brown sugar, Christmas cake and roasted hazelnut... Red pepper flakes and hot sauce.

Overall: It is a young but tasty bourbon... Don't let the nose scare you off. It is way more calmer and layered on the palate and it benefits from airing immensely. Now I am sipping my second pour and it is growing in me more and more. I didn't put my notes I scribbled after adding a few drops of water since I didn't like what water did to it but you should definitely try adding water as well. Just to see if you will agree with me or not... I quite enjoyed this bourbon and I am sure it will get better with longer maturation. Recipe No. 3 is definitely noted down and will be tasted again...

Price: $50

87/100

casks maturing in the warehouse // July 2017