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Spirit Works B&B Private Barrel Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

2 reviews
Every great once in awhile, as we’re making our way through a set of samples, this sort of record-scratch moment happens. Something so strikingly delicious and unique shows up that you throw your head back a bit, your eyes sort of pop open with glee, and maybe you even let out a little purr. It’s always an exciting experience, and when it comes from a distillery in our backyard who we have such deep admiration for – that delight is compounded even more.

Spirit Works has been distilling in Sebastopol since 2012, founded by husband and wife team Timo and Ashby Marshall. While his family’s sloe gin recipe was one of their original products and inspirations, Ashby’s passion for whiskey and spirits production led her to don the Master Distiller cap (and their distilling team remains one of the only entirely female ones in the US to this day.) They prioritize the use of local and organic ingredients, and make everything in-house from milling, mashing, fermenting, and distilling, all the way through to bottling. While many still know them for their vodka and gin line of products, their more recently released straight whiskey is aged at least four years in 53-gallon new American oak barrels, and bottled non-chill filtered to preserve the spirits full complexity. In 2020 they were even recognized by the American Distilling Institute as “Distillery of the Year”, a designation given in honor of the artistry and quality of the spirits being made, and for their leadership within the craft spirits community.

ADI recognizing distilleries for their artistry might sound a bit lofty, but Spirit Works whiskey exemplifies the ideal. They are continuously experimenting with their grains and mash bills, creating singular barrels of whiskey that will never be duplicated. Access to these gems can be found through their private barrel program, and we’re over the moon for this particular barrel of rye whiskey, distilled from 70% rye and 30% specialty malted barley. While the samples were presented and our selection was done without age statements, at 5 years and 6 months, it’s also pretty exciting to have landed one of the oldest Spirit Works barrels of whiskey to have ever been released. Incredibly lush and supple right out of the barrel, we opted to have it bottled at its cask strength abv of 61.6%.

On the nose warm honeycomb, golden raisins, and a touch of oak give way to dark chocolate, cacao nibs, and a yeasty bread note that conjures fresh chocolate babka. The palate is rich and remarkably easy sipping, a touch of vanilla, apricots, toasted coconut, and honeysuckle give way to dried fruits, prunes and musky berries, and a deeply enduring cocoa reminiscent of a port-finished whiskey, though almost certainly owing to the specialty malt chosen for this particular mash. Initially sweet with a lovely depth of mid-palate richness, the whiskey dries out on the finish with a lingering and elegant aromatic quality as the majority grain asserts itself with flavors of dark rye bread spices and Turkish espresso. Immensely enjoyable at 123.2 proof, with the approachability of a bourbon and the complexity of rye whiskey, aerating the glass intensifies the dark chocolate elements, and the spice is pleasingly rounded and never sharp. A remarkable whiskey, distilled by and as unique as Ashby Marshall herself.