By Jake Emen
The latest cask finished bourbon released from Big Bottom Whiskey, in November 2012, is their Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Zinfandel Cask Finish. Big Bottom utilizes their American Straight Bourbon Whiskey as the foundation to produce this, along with a highly touted Port Cask Finish bourbon, and a lineup of six exclusive Warehouse Series bourbons, each of which is available only in their tasting room in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Big Bottom’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey is bottled at 91 proof, 45.5% ABV, and has a strong rye presence, thanks to a mash bill with a 36% rye content. That core then gets aged for six more months in French oak zinfandel casks taken from four different vineyards which utilize zinfandel grape vines ranging from 70 to 135 years old.
Displayed in their official marketing photos, the Zinfandel Cask Finish takes on a deep, bright purple. I was therefore a bit disappointed to see more of a copper-brown color in the glass, with only the slightest touch of a purple tint when I tried my hardest to expose it.
Whereas the port cask clearly served its bourbon as a true finish, here, the zinfandel cask does more to actually change the nature of the bourbon itself. It becomes so mellowed out that it loses some of its whiskey characteristics. It almost seems more like a fortified wine, minus the herbal treatment, especially when sipped on the rocks.
Still, the Zinfandel Cask Finish manages rich flavors, and a pleasant finish. I just wish the flavor had more complexity, and more of a bourbon backbone.
As mentioned, ice seems to enhance its vineyard lineage. While I didn’t personally try this, I could see this being chilled and served with larger pours for a wine lover stuck in a whiskey house, in need of a drink.
Big Bottom’s Zinfandel Cask finished bourbon retails for roughly $30 or $35. It’s available for purchase in the northwest, as well as California and Nevada, and in the southeast, in states including Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.
Big Bottom Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Zinfandel Cask Finish won a Gold Medal from The Fifty Best Bourbon 2013.