I’m not a big drinker, having long ago adopted the philosophy of having a small amount of something great, rather than a large quantity of something mediocre. Yes, I’m no longer living in the dorms in college. ‘nuf said about that period of my life, however!
For now, I prefer a dram of a deep, flavorful alcoholic beverage, interspersed with the occasional cocktail out with friends and family. Certainly, my friends and I have been having a lot of fun with the BEV automatic cocktail machine that I reviewed on my YouTube channel. After many experiments, we landed on the Whiskey Sour as the best of the pods we’ve tried.
And speaking of whiskey, a friend and colleague invited a group of us to join him for a whiskey tasting, sponsored by Redwood Empire Whiskey, a part of Redwood Empire Distillery of Graton, California (in the Sonoma Valley, north of San Francisco and adjacent to Napa Valley). I was in. Who doesn’t enjoy a chance to hear a distiller talk about their blends and how they arrived at the various flavors and varieties they offer? My friend Chris joined me, and we got both my daughter and her friend in the loop too.
The wrinkle was, the distillery is in California and we were in Boulder, Colorado, over 1,200 miles away. Fortunately, we’ve all become quite adept at Zoom and similar video conferencing technologies, and they set up a camera so that we could join via Google Meet. It looked like this once everyone was hooked up and we were ready to proceed:
Leon, on the top left, was the organizer, and he got a group of people in person. The rest of us were solo or with a pal or two. Below the TV I have my computer with the webcam on, so they could see our group and we could interact. This reminds me, someone needs to invent a remote control MUTE for this sort of situation; it was a pain to get up and mute or unmute as we discussed some of the whiskeys…
WHISKEY IN THE MAIL
Prior to the event, I had supplied my address to Leon and he had arranged for modest 2oz samples of the various whiskeys to be sent out, along with some snacky things, and a bit of swag, all in a very attractive package:
You’ll notice that each bottle has the distillery – Redwood Empire – along with the name of that particular whiskey (for example, “Pipe Dream”) along with information on whether it’s bourbon, rye, or whiskey. There’s also a flight info card, but the keen-eyed will notice it’s for three whiskeys even though we received five samples. The three on the card, Pipe Dream, Lost Monarch, and Emerald Giant, are their “core” blended whiskeys, with ingredients from other distilleries mixed in, while the other two samples their own 100% in-house distilled whiskeys.
Redwood Empire head distiller Jeff Duckhorn (shown in the above photo), in an interview with Distiller Magazine, explained that Pipe Dream is a bourbon, Emerald Giant is a rye and Lost Monarch is a rye-bon. “Pipe Dream Bourbon is made from a blend of bourbons aged 4-12 years old and displays a spicy, toasty finish. Emerald Giant Rye is made from a recipe featuring 95% rye, and has a sweet, spicy, and herbal profile. The Lost Monarch, “ryebon” is a rye-dominant bourbon blended American whiskey.”
We set everything up on the table, along with some crackers on hand to help ‘cleanse our palettes’ as needed:
We did not have proper whiskey glasses, alas, but made do with what we did have. They worked just fine!
BACK TO THE LIVE EVENT
All ready to go, we were delighted when Jeff himself came on camera and proceeded to spend an hour with us, having us taste the whiskeys in order, as he shared stories of how he became a distiller and learned the nuances of creating various types of whiskeys. We started with Pipe Dream, which I found a very young, coarse Bourbon. In fact, I admit to not being much of a Bourbon or Rye drinker, which became obvious when our third sample, Emerald Giant, also hit me as rough and lacking any nuance. The middle choice, however, Lost Monarch, was delicious, with a completely different taste that had depth and flavor. I wasn’t alone in ranking the first three as 2, 3, 1, rather an Olympic award podium sort of arrangement.
We followed these – after a cracker and a few sips of water – with Grizzly Beast and Rocket Top. They are the first two 100% in-house distilled whiskeys from Redwood Empire, a bourbon and a rye, respectively. They’re both five years old and are bottled-in-bond, a key categorization for higher quality whiskeys. And they were good, but at the end of the evening, my ranking still had Lost Monarch on top. Turns out I do like a good Rye blend, as it seems.
Our Google Meet ran out of time after an hour and while most of the online participants jumped to a second room to chat, we dropped off to eat Thai food for dinner and have a catch-up evening of House of the Dragon on HBO. A very pleasant evening and while we didn’t all agree on the best of the Redwood Empire whiskeys, we all agreed that the tasting was fun, interesting, and informative. Next time we’re in the market for a whiskey, it might well be a bottle of Lost Monarch.