Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sonoma Distilling Co. Oak + Swine Single Barrel Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey

- $55
- 118 Proof
- 4 Years
- Barrel No. 17-0858
- California

I've been a member of a Facebook whiskey club called the Fox Valley Whiskey Society since its inception a couple years ago. Its founder, Michael Verive, has been incredibly diligent in putting together events for members, and more recently he has been tirelessly arranging for private barrels for the group.

For this particular bottling, he worked with a local barbecue joint, Oak + Swine in Batavia, Illinois to pick a single barrel, cask strength rye whiskey from Sonoma Distilling Co.  It's a four year rye whiskey distilled by Sonoma Distilling, and its the first Sonoma single barrel picked in Illinois. Of course, when the opportunity to get my hands on one of these came around, I had to grab a couple. I just couldn't pass up a cask strength single barrel rye at a reasonable price.

The nose was very pungent, the kind where you can smell the whiskey from across the table when you first open it. I got rich and spicy notes of pine and plum. It also had some darker fruit notes as well, like fig and raisin. Those notes were accompanied by a rich molasses sweetness.  I've now used the word "rich" twice to describe it, but that's kind of a theme here, as this smelled very rich. That was tempered a bit by the significant cinnamon spice I got on the nose as well.

The flavor really hit the pine note, however. Up front  I was inundated with pine and resin notes. It almost had a "dank" quality to it. That pine note was accompanied by a heavy hit of cinnamon which bit the tongue right up front and stuck around well through the finish. It was the pine and cinnamon combination that really defined this rye, that and the fact that it was incredibly punchy. It seemed to smack you in the face with flavor.

In addition to the pine and cinnamon, though, I got a nice layer of unsweetened vanilla that seemed to underscore everything else. It also had a slight cornbread note to it, which I found interesting as there was no corn in this. The mashbill was 80% rye and 20% malted rye, which explains the bold and punchy rye spices and flavors, but not the sweet cornbread note I got.

This rye had a great viscous quality to it, really coating the mouth and lending to a very long finish. Of course I got the spicy cinnamon that just never seemed to go away, but along with that I got a vanilla and molasses combination that really provided some sweetness to counter some of the rich but not-so-sweet flavors. The finish was probably my favorite part of the experience.

For their first pick, the guys at Oak + Swine selected a really damn good barrel, one that is absolutely full of punchy flavor. There's nothing subtle about this whiskey, and that's what I love most in a rye. Give me that bold spicy rye over the softer, more wheat or corn forward ryes any day.

Grade: B+

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