HOME BASE BOURBON
Batch 25 (March 2022) bottled to celebrate Oakland Art Murmer, with a special edition label designed by Ari Takata-Vasquez
MASH BILL – 60% Organic Corn grown in Sacramento, CA at Adams Grains; 30% Malted Barley grown in California, malted at Admiral Maltings in Alameda, CA; 10% Organic Rye grown in Sacramento, CA at Adams Grains
PROOF – 92
AGE – 3 years 8 months
DISTILLERY – Home Base Spirits (contract distilled with Corbin Cash Distillery in Atwater, CA)
PRICE – $59
WORTH BUYING? – Yes!
Any regular reader of this blog knows I’m a dedicated follower of Home Base Spirits, from my 2019 interview with founders Ali and Sam Blatteis on through several bottles of their distinctly Northern California whiskeys—among them a pungent Red Flint Corn cask strength offering, a sunny and herbaceous single malt, a bourbon finished in a Four Roses barrel given to them by a local shop, and their four-grain Cask Strength Bourbon release.
Like Freeland Spirits in Portland, OR (also women owned and operated) Home Base Spirits makes a point of transparency and community connection. Regarding transparency, notice the details in their mash bill listing above, which I took directly from their website. And for community connection, this special release bourbon is the perfect example:
Home Base worked in conjunction with a 2022 Oakland Art Murmur initiative, Spirit of Oakland, to create this special release. Spirit of Oakland is an annual collaborative project designed to celebrate and promote creativity and community in the California Bay Area city of Oakland, connecting local artists with local small businesses. Oakland has become both an art and craft-business hub in the wake of a years-long exodus of artists and small businesses from San Francisco, where housing and other basic resources have become prohibitively unaffordable due to the ongoing Techdemic—I mean, Tech Industry. 😉🥃
So, Home Base and Art Murmur put word out through their social media soliciting local artists to create the label for a commemorative bottling. Several artists submitted designs, and eventually the design by Ari Takata-Vasquez was selected. Home Base and Art Murmur each promoted the bourbon, Takata-Vasquez, shops where people could purchase a bottle, and a specially organized event to meet the artist.
When I picked this bottle up, I realized the last batch of the Home Base flagship bourbon I’d had was Batch 13 in 2020. I’d enjoyed other Home Base whiskeys since then, all special releases of one kind or another. But I was pleased to make a return to the flagship offering.
At uncorking I was not disappointed. Things seemed to have taken a leap forward since Batch 13, itself no slouch. Right out of the gate, Batch 25 grabbed my attention with its interesting aroma of herbal spices—grass, straw, wood, sugary dried ginger—sprinkled over a thick caramel. The taste followed with more of that caramel, some toffee, coffee, milk chocolate syrup, and dark Majhūl dates. Easily the most complex and interesting standard Home Base Bourbon release I’d experienced to date.
So here we are, five days after uncorking and three pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a spectrum of toasted oranges
NOSE – crystalizing honey, marmalade on crusty bread, dry twigs, hay, cream, a great thick-cut dried ginger note
TASTE – carries on from the nose, with a darker note of caramel beneath everything and a wet syrupy texture, a bit of baked apricot, some bitter oak tannin and grapefruit peel
FINISH – the herbaceous notes, with a dim sparkle from the ginger, some of the grapefruit peel’s bitter edge, and a fleeting whiff of coffee and of dark chocolate
OVERALL – herbaceous and dry like a late-afternoon Summer hike in the rolling hills north of San Francisco
A bit drier now than at uncorking, this bourbon is already on the move after less than a week of taking air. Whereas before there was more prominent sweetness from the candy notes, today it’s the dried ginger and honey adding the sugar. That great Majhūl date note has receded into the darkness somewhere, hiding behind the glint of the ginger and honey’s crystalline sugars.
Something I learned about Home Base Bourbons early on is, once uncorked, they evolve, typically in a good way. Batch 10 went from okay to incredible between its first and final pours. I still remember that bottle as a key moment in my understanding of what Home Base was up to.
Of course I always prefer a consistent bottle that’s stellar from first drop to last. Those are rare. A recent bottle of Booker’s (Batch 2019-03) went from cinnamon to CINNAMON. By its end I was actually quite bored with it. I almost tossed the final pour down the sink! I didn’t. But this was a first for me with Booker’s, and a sadness. Booker’s was the bourbon that made me love bourbon. But it’s not just the price that’s changed over the years. The flavor profile has gotten away from those dark depths regularly found in batches from a handful of years ago.
I’ve slipped off on a tangent. Point is that Booker’s has always been wild in the bottle, and wildly different from batch to batch despite its recognizable core flavor profile. The Home Base flagship bourbon likewise remains as true to its core flavor profile as ever, yet has been growing more consistently darker and richer from batch to batch. As noted, it has also consistently been an evolver in the bottle, and I already suspect this Batch 25 will follow that trend. Here’s hoping its evolution takes a turn back toward the chocolate, toffee and Majhūl dates!
Now nosing my empty glass, the herb medley is there along with some fresh chewy crusty bread, and a surprise baked cherry note! Where’d that come from?
The Home Base Bourbon Batch 25 journey is off and running.