To say that Woodinville’s newest bourbon is great for Washington state’s whiskey industry merely starts the conversation. In this author’s opinion, Woodinville Straight Bourbon is a major step forward for the entire American craft whiskey industry, if I may be so bold. I should also stress that this opinion is not expressed flippantly or out of cheap enthusiasm, but from careful observation. Trust me, I’m a blogger.
For the time being, the “craft” designation has evolved a bit from what it used to mean. Because this term is not a regulated one, anyone can use it. Any 3 month old startup that bottles someone else’s 6 year old whiskey is called “craft.” Any distillery that phones in a subpar whiskey and charges $70.00 can call it “craft” because they used a small handmade still. Even companies seeking to bypass tradition with technology (machines that accelerate aging) are on the band wagon, all in the name of cashing in on the Golden Age of Whiskey we find ourselves in. But the true artisans, those that will be here to stay, will produce true quality products that will last. Woodinville Whiskey Company is one of those distilleries, and one that doesn’t need “craft” to be relevant. A few brief points on their new bourbon…
Simply called “Woodinville Straight Bourbon,” this bottling is not your typical 2-3 year old craft offering aged in a mixture of full size and small micro barrels (truthfully, micro barreling isn’t as common as it used to be). It is aged completely in full size, traditional 53 gallon barrels for 5 years. There is no other craft bourbon with that length of aging. More time in a full size barrel means more flavor development. This high rye mash bill, after a 4 day fermentation, is pot distilled rather than column distilled to afford the producer with more control over flavor. The resulting distillate then fills the seasoned 53 gallon white oak barrels from the Missouri based Independent Stave Company. Woodinville specified that their barrels be toasted first before the required charring (level 3 char, by the way). Toasting first essentially enlarges the “red” caramelized layer under the char for extra sweet oak extraction during maturation. Instead of aging on site in Woodinville, the barrels are instead freighted across the Cascade mountain range to slumber in central Washington for 5 years. The central region’s climate has the temperature extremes to maximize flavor extraction, yet the arid dryness remains, stealing nearly 30% of the barrel’s contents due to evaporation.
Bottled at 45% ABV and priced under $50.00, this bourbon has nearly every quality necessary to contend. But even with this new bottling’s impressive makeup and authentic credentials, the only thing that matters is how it tastes. On to it…
Nose- Warm toffee, vanilla bean. Sweetness blankets this bourbon but does not dominate. The oak aromas are nicely layered underneath. Sugared citrus, confection like. Chocolate covered cherries. Sweet corn, touch of almonds. Spices of cinnamon and nutmeg are light. Beautiful nose.
Taste- Sweet caramel, a gentle but flavorful mouthfeel. Tangerine. Perilously drinkable. Good balance. Light to medium body.
Finish- Classic barrel char, of course. Medium length with a pleasing bitterness. Drying on the way out. I’ll have another.
Comment- It appears that five Washington summers is enough to collect all these great flavors and bring them to an impeccable balance. A very enjoyable dram to say the least but allow me to get crazy: Woodinville just produced the new bourbon standard in Washington state and fired a shot across the rest of the US for craft bourbon quality. Well done, boys.
Jim’s Rating – 91/100
Editor’s Note: This selection was purchased off the shelf per our policy and the review is 100% independent.
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