Sonoma County Rye

Review 2017-062 «Specifics» Straight rye whiskey (Batch 7) • Distilled from 80% unmalted Canadian and 20% malted U.K. rye • 49.0% Alcohol • Matured for no less than 1 year in new, charred American oak barrels, finished in used barrels • Non-chill filtered • Natural coloured • Sonoma County Distillery • Rohnert Park • California • U.S.A. • Locally available • Difficult to find (price ±€70) • Whiskybase #100437

STORY. Sonoma County Distilling Company was founded in 2010 by Adam Spiegel, born and raised in nearby San Francisco. To quote: “ “While working with great Master Distillers and Blenders over the years, I’ve honed my stills to continually raise the bar with each new product and batch. There are no “Masters” here per say; we’re just regular people striving every day to better themselves and their craft. I like to say we’re making whiskeys in a small way for a big world.” They try to adhere to traditional methods using direct-fired alembic copper pot stills and perform milling, mashing and fermentation all in-house. They use local organic non-GMO grains and new, American oak barrels from Minnesota and Missouri. Within their range they currently offer three types of rye, three types of bourbon and two types of wheat whiskey.


APPEARANCE. Distinctive and authentic design, colour of the contents is light copper and is naturally coloured.

NOSE. At first nosing this is nicely comfortable, very aromatic, spicy, fresh and floral. I find dried apricot, fresh Alsatian white wine, some nuttiness in the background, and vanilla. All in all it is quite busy. Furthermore there are coriander, hints of strawberry ice cream, raspberry cream and cherry juice. (water) Oh forgot to add it. In a later session, I added some and found that it mellows everything a bit.

TASTE. Again it feels very busy. It is fruity and aromatic with cherries, coriander, rye bread, bread dough and violets (never tasting them though but I imagine that they taste like this). Furthermore there is vanilla, dried apricots, red fruits covered with spices, white pepper, gingerbread, roasted sesame seeds and nutty breads. (water) None added.

VERDICT. I find this a very good example of a young rye that shows that ageing is not always needed to achieve complexity, or smoothness. This batch of Sonoma County Rye is complex, while the different notes are very well integrated in the whole. It shows that I should really look more deeply into the world of rye whiskeys, in particular those produced by American micro distilleries. We’ll do that for sure.

Recommended for people who want to taste a really good young rye whiskey.

Thanks to Norbert for the sample!

«What others say»

  • @Whiskybase: Mean score of 87.00 (1 vote)
  • @Thewhiskeyjug (batch 5): “…if this Sonoma Rye Whiskey was aged in full sized barrels for 4+ years I bet it would be great” Score: 71/100
  • @Drinkhacker: “The body is more well-rounded” Score: B-
  • @Therumhowlerblog (batch 7): “My hat goes off to Sonoma County Distilling for breaking one of the stereotypes which I held towards young whiskey spirits” Score: 86/100
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