Woodinville Port Cask Finished Straight Bourbon

WOODINVILLE PORT CASK FINISHED BOURBON

MASH BILL – 72% corn, 22% rye, 6% barley

PROOF – 90

AGE – NAS (5-6 years + 6 months finishing)

DISTILLERY – Woodinville Whiskey Co.

PRICE – $49

BUY AGAIN? – Yes

Two years ago I picked up a bottle each of Woodinville’s standard bourbon and rye offerings and was immediately smitten. The brand had then only recently started distribution outside its home state of Washington. It was a welcome addition to the whiskey shelf, and an uncommonly accomplished craft offering.

Woodinville waited until their whiskeys had reached 5 years of age before going national. Very smart move. It put their products 2 to 3 years ahead of most craft distilleries. There are so many 2 and 3 year craft releases on the market. These can be excellent, like Home Base Spirit’s Red Flint Corn Whiskey. But often the roughness of young craft distillates runs rampant over whatever subtler flavors they may also have to offer.

Woodinville’s whiskeys do have a roughness to them, but it comes across as more of a rustic quality. In that first bottle of their standard bourbon, to this day I have such a clear memory of the prominent weathered wood note, which no doubt comes from their 18-month air dried barrels that soak up Washington State’s extreme seasons of alternating sun, snow, fog and rain.

It’s a flavor and aroma that I find comforting. I smelled variations of it often when I was growing up in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Sometimes it came from old trees decomposing in the forest. Sometimes it came from logs freshly cut in the Fall and stacked alongside our house. Sometimes it came from arranging those logs for a Winter fire in our living room hearth. Sometimes it came from outdoor wooden furniture, hand crafted and, like Woodinville’s barrels, gradually seasoned by time’s steady passage. Or our back deck where I spent many summer nights sleeping in a sleeping bag on oak planks, surrounded by 100-year-old oak trees.

So I liked Woodinville right away. In addition to the oak it offered a nice range of autumn fruit and candy store caramels and chocolates—more flavors conjuring childhood memories of local orchards or Olde Town Sacramento’s old-timey candy store with its piles of chunky peanut brittle, globby chocolate covered nuts, and long licorice ropes in seeming endless flavor variations.

Naturally I was delighted when Woodinville finally released their distillery-only port cask finished bourbon in California. I picked up a bottle right away. Here are some brief notes, taken a week after uncorking, just a handful of pours into the bottle, and tasted in a simple brandy glass.

COLOR – rich and russet with flecks of vibrant orange

NOSE – very vibrant like the color, with woody spices, freshly cracked oak alongside weathered oak, sun-dried mosses, rustic cinnamon sticks, dark plumb and cherry, eventually a nice caramel oozing out slow like a sap from all the spiced wood

TASTE – the wonderful wood notes and spices up front, then comes the dark fruits, and finally a deep, dark, chocolatey caramel note, punctuated by a whiff of the nicely weathered oak

FINISH – the oak and spice notes linger on a bed of those dark caramels and fruits, with a nice spearmint note slipping in, all fading slowly and gently

OVERALL – a wild and rustic ride of a bourbon, both dry and sweet, textured and rich

The good people at Woodinville really know what they’re doing. This easy sipping bourbon strikes a rare balance between rough-and-tumble and sophisticated. The trademark Woodinville rustic wood and spice qualities are all there, dancing brightly on a rich and sumptuous foundation of caramel, chocolate and dark fruits. It’s like the coziest remote cabin with all the comforts you need.

And that color! These photos have not been filtered:

I don’t have much else to say, to be honest. This bourbon is simply good. Sure there are other whiskeys I might like more for one reason or another, on one day or another. But I feel no need to compare or rank this bottle in that way. It’s doing what it does very well. It totally evades that sticky, overly sweet trap many port or wine finished bourbons fall into, striking a wonderful balance between its mash bill and the two barrels that gave it color and shape.

If any of this sounds enticing to you, go get a bottle. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, of course. Woodinville is particular. But I can guarantee this is a quality product at a decent price offering a unique, regional craft tasting experience not found in Kentucky, Indiana, or Tennessee.

Cheers!

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