By Father John Rayls
I love the name Redwood Empire American Whiskey. It conjures up all kinds of positive historic images in my mind. Graton Distilling Company is based in Sonoma County, California, and is the owner of D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin and a similarly named Vodka. The company started in 2015 as the Spirits side of Purple Wine + Spirits and this is their first venture into whiskey. The company uses mostly sourced whiskeys; although, there is some of their own locally distilled 2 year old rye in every bottle. However, the other four whiskeys used are probably sourced through MGP in Indiana. They include an 11 year old, five year old and four year old – all blended bourbons. In addition, a three year old rye aged in port barrels is thrown in. The mashbill is made up of corn, rye and malted barley with a final blend of 40% bourbon and 60% rye. All this makes for a very unique American Whiskey which comes across as somewhat complex. It’s bottled at 90 proof, but is very smooth both in nose and palate. Unfortunately, the company isn’t very forthright about its source or the exact process for making this whiskey. My sample was bottled on November 9, 2017 from batch number 01.
The tall 750ml bottle is attractive with an “aged” off-white label with dark brown lettering highlighted in orange. The whiskey appears medium brown with some dark orange tints. The highlights are orange shaded polished brass. The prolific legs are reluctant, but eventually drain. The nose is light to medium in intensity with no burn or even the presence of tingling. Feel free to inhale deeply. There are notes of fresh fruit over very light spice with light oak forming the foundation. Combined, it presents an aroma of fresh cut lumber. When combined with ice, the aroma is almost negligible.
The taste appears to offer multiple layers of light cherries and light oak over caramel with some light spice tossed in for good measure. The alcohol is a distant consideration with a very smooth presence. It offers a light creamy mouthfeel. Most of the action takes place from mid-mouth to the front and onto the lips. This includes both upper and lower regions. It is an experience of short to medium length with the finish kicking in fairly quickly. The finish is medium to long if you are patient waiting for it to fully express itself. It begins with caramel, oak and cinnamon spice turning to pepper with some lasting warmth. The heat never rises above a medium level.
This is an easy drinking whiskey that is very approachable even when served neat. Over ice, it’s just slightly muted in both aroma and taste, but still very enjoyable. I tried it as a part of a Kentucky Mule (lime juice, Ginger Beer, Whiskey, fresh lime) and it was excellent! However, buy the really good Ginger Beer (Fever-Tree). It makes a huge difference. Redwood Empire American Whiskey is a an interesting and enjoyable whiskey and you shouldn’t hesitate to do some experimenting. You can find Redwood Empire American Whiskey retailing at or around $45.00.