By Father John Rayls
With all of the controversy surrounding the choice of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as Jim Murray’s best whisky in the world, a writer is prompted to pause and think a little bit longer before putting words to keyboard, so much heat and debate has there been flying across the Internet. However, this is also one of the reasons I enjoy reviewing various whiskeys. It’s simply one person’s mostly humble opinion on what he or she really enjoys drinking.
“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others,” Raymond Chandler, famous author, once declared. I really like this statement, because it pretty well sums up as we pursue this most noble of hobbies.
As I recently mentioned in reviewing their straight rye, Spirit Works Distillery has expanded their product lines and are now producing whiskeys as well as their gin and vodka. This time they have produced a 100% wheat whiskey. My sample was from barrel no’s 13-0017 and 13-0018, aged for two years and one month in 53 gallon new, charred, American oak barrels. The wheat is 100% organic red winter wheat which is milled on site at the distillery in Sonoma County (Sebastopol), California.
Spirit Works Straight Wheat Whiskey is a 90 proof, non-chill filtered offering. The whiskey has an orange glow with brown hues and the curved glass creates some interesting play as the light bends through the bottle. The legs are short to medium and the color in the glass appears the same as in the bottle. You can see some coating in the glass when swirled, but it doesn’t appear as thick or heavy.
Allowing this straight wheat whiskey to breathe for awhile allows it to settle down somewhat. The aromas become easier to distinguish with little burn and are quite enjoyable. The nose is a carmelized popcorn with hints of vanilla and oak and a very subtle earthiness. When consumed without letting it sit open for a period of time, it will drink a little hot, and that really surprised me at only 90 proof.
The flavor seems to hit high in the back of the mouth first and then lands mid-tongue. Much like the Spirit Works Straight Rye Whiskey, the wheat whiskey tastes young. Young, but still interesting. The distillery describes the flavors as “Graham Cracker and carmelized sugar with delicate notes of sweet tea, toasted walnut and stone fruit.” I certainly would agree with the Graham Cracker, sweet tea and light toasted walnut. The finish is long and satisfying. I would encourage you to not rush the next sip and spend some time concentrating on the finish. It will migrate to the front of the mouth (lips too!) in multiple waves if you’re patient with soft pulses of sweet vanilla and some light cocoa.
The whiskeys have only just become available from December 1, 2015, and the distillery is suggesting a retail of $65.00 per bottle. I find that a little steep, but I’ve enjoyed my time with the Straight Wheat Whiskey.