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Hillrock Sauternes Solera B&B Private Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon

7 reviews
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Located in the Hudson Valley a couple of hours north of NYC, Hillrock was the first American whiskey to be aged using the Solera method, a style strongly associated with Sherry wine (Solera translates to “on the ground” in Spanish). In this method, barrels from the bottom of the “pyramid” are partially drained for bottling, then topped off from the next layer up, with new make spirit only being added into the top layer. Hillrock’s pyramid is made up of new American oak barrels on top – checking off that Bourbon requirement and imbuing its characteristic rich wood influence, ex-Bourbon barrels in the middle layer, and 20 year Oloroso Sherry casks on the bottom. Because the bottom and middle layers are never fully drained, they include increasingly mature whiskey, going back to the founding of the Solera. As the first American producer to embrace this method, Hillrock has locked in a sort of competitive advantage. Lauded almost instantly, their Bourbon has only gotten better with time.

For our private barrel selection, we wanted to provide two unique comparison points vs the core Bourbon, bottled at cask strength, and additionally aged in a final, unique level of cask finishing. While the readily available Hillrock Bourbon enters the bottle at 46.3%, our exclusive barrel has a 56% ABV. And for its final round of aging, it was transferred to Premier Cru Sauternes wine casks. If you are not familiar, it’s one of the most gorgeous wines in the world, and its essence marries to spirits beautifully. Created in Bordeaux, the wine is imbued with the sweetness of “noble rot”, concentrating and intensifying the flavors of the grape, with its honeyed richness balanced with lively acidity, and flavors that linger for ages. Taken together, these production changes complement each other perfectly. The intensity of flavor that comes with a cask strength bourbon displays itself most prominently on the mid-palate, and from the lush entry to the elegant finish you’ll find nary a wisp of ethanol or off-notes, all is in harmony.

On opening the bottle, the aromas are immediately enjoyable and become simultaneously more delicate and intense with time. Fruity and warm, a touch of florals conjure up honeysuckle and jasmine, heavy as if freshly bloomed on a hot summer day, caramel and brown-sugar roasted pecans and walnuts emerge with time. The entry is creamy, lush, and immediately full-bodied. Golden raisins are followed by a quick and welcome hit of bright stone fruits, apricots and peaches drizzled in honey, then the rye spice rushes in, a sweet spice mix of cinnamon and clove, the honey infused now with a touch of chamomile and meadow herbs. A final gear change as the finish comes around, the roasted nuts now show themselves on the palate, freshly warmed from the oven, dark chocolate-covered raisins, and chewy dried fruit, with the sweetness of the entry giving way to a dry, oaky, and impressively long finish.