2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Review

Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Review

The Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey is distilled from a mash of unmalted wheat and malted rye. Unusual you say? Quite, but why is it called 2nd Chance you ask? Well that’s because they’re aging it the same small barrels previously used to age their bourbon on.

In Sonoma County Distilling’s Words: Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey

“Giving our barrels a ‘second chance’ to age whiskey, our 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey is matured in used rye and bourbon barrels, further enhancing the toasty vanilla notes found in the American oak. This decelerated environment for aging allows the pliable wheat to remain vibrant, distinctive and showcases an ever-evolving style for this whiskey. Dubbed “the bartender’s choice”, it drinks beautifully neat and sings in a classic Whiskey Sour. Notes of freshly baked bread, citrus, vanilla bean, ginger and golden raisins. On the palate, butterscotch, light brine, toffee and orange curd. The finish is viscous and rich, but not sweet. The mouth fills out with a creamy grain quality. This is Wheat Whiskey.”

It is young, powered by that “craft oak” taste and light overall, but unlike some “craft distillers” out there, who just slap a label on some MGP whiskey and call it a day, these guys actually do make the whiskey themselves. They do everything from mashing to bottling in-house at their distillery in Sonoma, CA (hence the name) and they work hard to put out a spirit that has a taste all it’s own and it does… to a degree.

The Craft oak though, unfortunately, makes the 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey taste similar core profile to all the rest of their whiskies and a lot of the craft guys out there who also use small barrels.

Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Info

Region: California, USA

Distiller: Sonoma County Distilling
Mashbill: Wheat and malted rye (% unknown)
Cask: New Charred Oak (small barrels)
Age: NAS
ABV: 47.5%

Price: ~$50*

Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Review

Light caramel

Young craft oak and some a sweetness from the wheat and a spiciness from the rye roll and mingle on their way out of the glass. Some caramel mixes with raw grain and citrus notes and some aspirity vanilla. It smells young, but the sweet and spicy combo isn’t terrible.

Craft oak with caramel, raw grain and citrus playing with a heavy spirity vanilla and some light baking spice that shows up towards the end. The flavor is a little on the light side, lighter than the nose.

Grain driven but complimented with notes of caramel and spirity vanilla sweetness

Not balanced due to the young grain and raw wood driven character, thin bodied and it runs a little hot.

I initially wrote that the Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey is “not my everyday drinker, but something I’ll definitely be using to break up the week and add a little something different to my usual line up”, but I haven’t touched it in almost 2 1/2 years…

Amongst the craft category, it’s not awful and it does perform alright in cocktails, at least it did in the Basin Street I made with it when I first sampled it. But you know what makes an even better Basin Street? Bulleit Rye or Dickel 08 which are 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat. Sorry, but it’s time to get brutally honest about what’s happening out there these days.

SCORE: 75/100 (C)**

*Disclosure: This sample of 2nd Chance Wheat 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 the whiskey since first reviewing it so re-tasted from a full bottle.
2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 75
  • Palate - 75
  • Finish - 75
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 75


2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey is interesting, but it suffers from the same pitfalls as all young small barrel craft whiskey.

Sonoma 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Label

Josh Peters

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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4 Responses to 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey Review

  1. Because they might have trouble getting it–? These days, I assume anything small is hard to get. (Don’t get me started on Berkshire Mt. or Clear Creek…) Still, bars are sporting the damndest obscurities these days for their house cocktails.

    We were at a specialty retailier in S.F. craving more Dry Fly wheat but went for the Sonoma as it was new to us. At that, it was the cask strength. My my, it does lovely things with just ice and water. Good work. Up for their other products.

    *You’re right, in this era of mushroom popping branding, actual and good quality distilling earns attention.

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