Sonoma Rye Whiskey Review

Sonoma Rye Whiskey Review

If you know me you know I love rye and so when this, the Sonoma Rye Whiskey, arrived in the mail it made my day. I had initially tried it at Whisky Live and while it tasted young and spirit driven I thought I saw some promise in there. It had a strong rye kick to it beneath the raw oak, grain and spirit and I was curious to try it at home in a controlled environment.

In Sonoma County Distilling’s Words: Sonoma Rye Whiskey

“Our signature whiskey, this rye is made the way it was meant to be, by using an exclusively rye mash and distilled twice in traditional copper pot stills over a direct fire. Aged in new, charred American oak barrels for no less than one year, no additional grains distort this pure rye profile. Notes of vanilla, allspice, walnut, dried apricot and white pepper abound. This is true rye whiskey.”

Made from 100% rye, double distilled in a traditional Alembic pot still and finished in used bourbon barrels these guys are doing everything they can to be modern in attitude and approach yet traditional in technique and execution. It’s honestly great to see and these are one of the craft distilleries I’m excited to watch over the next couple years… is what I originally wrote. But after trying all of their new stuff and re-visting this as an update I have to say the excitement has waned because not a lot has changed.

Sonoma Rye Whiskey Info

Region: California, USA

Distiller: Sonoma County Distilling
Mashbill: 100% Rye
Cask: New Charred Oak (small barrels)
Age: NAS
ABV: 48%

Batch: 5
Bottle: 1302

Price: ~$50*

Sonoma Rye Whiskey Review

EYE
Dark caramel

NOSE
Craft oak, raw rye grain and cake spirity vanilla explode out of the glass followed by caramel and cinnamon. There is a bit of dill hanging out in the background with a bit of citrus.

PALATE
Kablam! The craft oak, raw rye grain and spirity vanilla accelerate across the palate towing some weak notes of dill, caramel, cinnamon and fruit.

FINISH
Medium fade of raw wood, raw grain, dill, anise and spirity vanilla.

BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Balance isn’t fully there, medium body and a smooth texture without any more heat than you’d except.

OVERALL
What I originally wrote about the Sonoma Rye Whiskey is “Like the 2nd Chance Wheat I enjoy drinking this one neat and it holds up on the rocks, but I’m in love with what the 100% rye mash bill brings to a Manhattan”. But like the 2nd chance Wheat I never touched this bottle again after the taste and cocktail. I never had an urge to taste it again and it sat collecting dust on my shelf before I re-tasted, re-noted and gave it away.

I’m slowly making my way to updating old reviews after moving to a unified scale instead of separate scales for Craft, Bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc. These old reviews are getting their updates when I taste new stuff from the distillery which I just did with these guys and I’m heartbroken to say that in 2 1/2 years nothing has changed.It’s all still super young and “quick aged” in small barrels which gives it that craft whiskey taste that still plagues the category. Which is sad, because if this Sonoma Rye Whiskey was aged in full sized barrels for 4+ years I bet it would be great.

It’s all still super young and “quick aged” in small barrels which gives it that craft whiskey taste that still plagues the category. Which is sad, because if this Sonoma Rye Whiskey was aged in full sized barrels for 4+ years I bet it would be great. Instead it tastes like all the other little guys.

SCORE: 71/100 (C-)**

*Disclosure: This Sonoma Rye Whiskey was graciously sent to me by the company for the purposes of this review. The views, opinions, and tasting notes are 100% my own.

**EDIT: This review was updated on 08/13/17 to fit current scoring guidelines. When I first scored it in 2014 I was lumping “craft” in its own category and rating on a Category Scale. A year ago I moved to a unified scale. I haven’t touched this whiskey since first reviewing it so it was re-tasted from a nearly full bottle.
Sonoma Rye Whiskey Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 71
  • Palate - 71
  • Finish - 71
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 71

Summary

Sonoma Rye Whiskey is standard for a craft rye.

Sonoma Rye Whiskey Label

Josh Peters
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Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters
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Filed Under: Rye

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