Confession time: I’m not the biggest fan of sherry-finished whiskey. The first time I was consciously aware that a whiskey I was drinking had any sort of sherry influence was the Glenmorangie Lasanta, a finished version of the classic Glenmorangie. It proved to be the only expression in the Glenmorangie sampler pack that I disliked. Since then I’ve learned that several scotches and Irish whiskeys utilize ex-sherry casks, whether partially or exclusively, for aging. Other than that, my most recent exposure to sherry-forward influence was a cheap bottle of sherry wine, which I’d describe as liquidated trail mix, and Wild Turkey Revival. I won’t go into too much detail about Revival since it deserves its own post, but let’s just say it’s one of the most challenging pours I’ve had to date.
Then there’s this little guy. Dareringer is a fairly celebrated expression from Rabbit Hole, a craft distiller making waves with their beautiful bottle designs, virtual tours, a high-end rye, and more. According to Rabbit Hole’s site, they slowly toast their barrels “over a wood-fired flame before charring, a process that takes up to 20 minutes per barrel.” Confusingly, if you Google “Rabbit Hole Dareringer” and select the first result (leading to Rabbit Hole’s site), the description mentions “a high percentage of imported German rye.” Yet if you navigate to the more detailed product page on Dareringer, it mentions the bourbon utilizes a wheated mash bill. Other than that slip-up, Rabbit Hole’s site appears comprehensive and transparent, which is always appreciated in an industry where at least two of the top players won’t even disclose their exact mash bills.
A sample of this product was provided by a fellow whiskey fan.
Nose: Light sherry influence upfront with a bit of rubbery funk followed by young, corn-forward whiskey. Mellowed fruit is lightly spread in-between. Swirling brings the core of the whiskey to the forefront; soft and sweet crop notes. After sipping the nose comes to life; I get vanilla with a light, sweet clove. There’s also a soft blend of mint, corn, and wheat yeast, as well as almonds and fruitcake.
Palate: The sherry influence is light yet palpable. The actual whiskey quickly follows with its younger crop-forward notes, gradually meshing with the sherry for the finish in a light, almost subtle way. Starts with raisins and apricot, graduating to raw almond and cashew butter, and yeast, followed by a combination that mimics sherry wine without so much of the funk and acidity.
Finish: Light and clean. Traces of trail mix can be discerned for a brief period of time, but otherwise it quickly closes out.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only sherry-finished wheated bourbon out there. If this pour was any indication, I’d be interested to see more brands tackle this combination. That’s not to say Dareringer is a gamechanger—I’d honestly say it’s underbaked, but the premise and execution here do let the imagination run. The strong dark and nutty influence that sherry is known for feels more checked in here than it does with other expressions, likely due to the combination of youth and wheat. What we have here is soft, surprisingly light, and something of a grower. Finishing my sample left me with a yearning for another pour, both for curiosity and enjoyment.
Unfortunately, two things hold this whiskey back. The first is unsurprising: the price. $80 is a steep ask, even for a craft expression. As much as I’d like to revisit Dareringer with a bottle of my own, my interest doesn’t reach that deep into my checking account. I’d be more inclined to purchase Rabbit Hole’s Boxergrail Rye at $50 since, in my experience, rye whiskey fares better at younger ages than most other whiskeys.
The other factor keeping Dareringer from being a purchase for me? A lacking finish, which ties into price. Sometimes a clean close is preferred, but I’m a sucker for whiskeys that refuse to quit. These are the true sippers that make each sip something to savor and enjoy. So when I’m nearing the triple digits for my purchase, I become more discerning. I look for more character and strength (not necessarily proof-wise) at higher price points, which is ultimately where Dareringer falls short.