By Father John Rayls
Spirit Works Distillery’s latest release, and entry into whiskey-making, consists of a Straight Wheat Whiskey and a Straight Rye Whiskey, the latter covered here. This Sonoma County distillery is better known for its work with vodka and gin. My bottle came from barrel number 13-0020 and it states it was aged for two years and one month in a charred new American oak barrel (53 gallons, so no small barrels here) and bottled at 90 proof. This rye whiskey comes on the market in California today, December 1, and then a few other states and probably the UK by January 1.
The distillery was founded by Ashby and Timo Marshall and is committed to a “batch by batch, grain to glass” philosophy. One of the more noteablee aspects of this distilling operation it is that the wife is the primary distiller, and eight of nine staff are women. The owners strive to tightly monitor and control all quality aspects while keeping their business as organic as possible. The custom-built copper hybrid pot still is capable of producing vodka, gin and whiskey.
The bottle is sturdy, rounded, and embossed with the Spirit Works “cog-wheel” from their icon. It has a good feel in the hand. The rye whiskey is a medium brown with orange shading in the bottle.
In the glass, the elixir appears slightly more golden brown. The legs are medium.
The distillery believes the nose to be one of “bright aroma of baked apple, coffee, cedar, and leather.” To me it smells young. That isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s just the way it is. The oak is very apparent with a hint of cedar and possibly very faint leather. There is a slight sweetness to the aroma, but if it’s baked apple, I can’t discern it.
I did two different tastings trying to be fair after Spirit Works very generously supplied me with a full size bottle.
On the palate, there is a very slight oily feel which I like. The taste doesn’t hit until it reaches the back of the mouth, and as before it tastes young. I get a strong taste of oak with spice and some underlying sweetness. I wouldn’t call it honeycomb, but there is a definite sweet presence. The finish, I can honestly say, I really like. It is a very long finish filled with multiple waves of warm, light spice. It began at the back of my mouth, but eventually made its way through the mid-mouth region right up to the tip of my tongue. The really surprising thing is it stays at the tip of the tongue buzzing lightly.
This is not a bad whiskey, but one that I think it will get better, as I believe it will benefit from extra time in the barrel. For this distillery’s first venture into all things whiskey, I would give them a “thumbs up” and encourage people to give it a try.
However, the price point is a problem for me, as the suggested retail is $65, and it’s too new to have any sense of discount pricing.