Frey Ranch "Barrel No. 568" B&B Private Select Bourbon
Frey Ranch is an absolute rarity in the Whiskey world, in this country or others, as they are grower-producers. Every element of production is carried out on site, from the growing of their non-GMO corn, winter cereal rye, winter wheat, and two-row barley, to the fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling. This kind of terroir in a spirits maker is something seen in French brandies, Mezcal, and Agricole Rum, but almost never in whiskey. Colby Frey is a distiller, but notably, also a farmer, just as his family has been in Nevada since 1854. In a world of brands and corporate marketing, it is exciting, refreshing, and important to find and celebrate the real thing. So when it came time to select our very own Frey Ranch bourbon barrel, we just had to pack it up and drive out to Fallon, Nevada to see for ourselves.
From the first hand shake in the dry Nevada heat, we knew this was a different kind of distillery visit - and for once, we weren’t being herded into any sort of award laden tasting room (though Frey Ranch certainly isn’t lacking in those). Instead, Colby, dressed in his work shirt and jeans, still dusty from a night spent watching over a smooth irrigation of their fields, ushers us into his truck. The next few hours is a rolling schoolhouse as we traverse the acreage of the Frey Ranch: we learn about everything from thorny water rights issues, to how to select correct strains of corn for distillation (which are different from those for human consumption, and different still from those for animal feed), to the benefits and yields of seasonal rye strains , to “just how does one go about pivoting their multigenerational family farm to a notable distillery in an already crowded field?”. After this tour, the answer is clear: by putting crops and fermentation, literally and figuratively, first.
This attention to the life-span of the grains doesn’t let up as we meet the distilling side of Frey Ranch - every part of the fermentation and distillation is set up to gently bring out the nuances in the distillate. And as we visit the partially humidified barrel rooms, breathing the fragrant air almost-alarmingly saturated with aging spirit, Colby giddily shares some of his experimental single grain projects. How can we be anything less than over-the-harvest-moon excited for single barrel bourbon from people like this?!
So here’s our barrel #568, a four grain bourbon, bottled at 123.58 barrel proof. It was aged in 53 gallon barrels with char #4 on the staves and char #3 on the heads, and was filled on June 16th 2016, and bottled on October 1st 2021. It was aged for 5 years, 3 months, and 13.1 days. The nose opens on maple syrup and parsley, with a supporting cast of salted toffee, buttercream, coffee, grassy, peach, barrel char, burnt apple pie. The palate is big buttery, but dangerously easy drinking for the proof, with black pepper, sweet cinnamon, fresh shelled peanuts, more parsley and other herbal greens, earthy notes, creamed corn, and a kiss of oak tannin, with eucalyptus on the end. With a bit of water, more fruit comes out to play, with tart cherries, apple peel, and a hint of cantaloupe added to the spice and earth show. Again, dangerously easy drinking without any water, but do add some for the second half or so of your pour to see a fantastic and interesting transformation.