If there’s anything you get used to when diving into whiskey, it’s patterns. Similar whiskey styles and mash bills often bring similar tasting notes and personality traits, depending on who you talk to (each individual can bring different thoughts and associations to the table). While we’re on the topic of patterns, here’s an expression I utter almost every time a whiskey brand I’m interested in is brought up: “I’d like to try ‘x brand/expression,’ but other stuff ends up higher on my list.” Were money and space of no concern, then this balance of curiosity and responsibility would likely take a backseat. I mention this since Woodinville Whiskey Company has been on my radar ever since I started getting into whiskey. Their simple but effective bottle and label design caught my eye with a seemingly reasonable price tag of $40 for their entry-level bourbon. Alas, a bottle never graced my collection since, well, I already dropped that line three sentences prior.
The good news is that a sample of the bourbon recently came my way along with several others from a fellow whiskey enthusiast, so I get to find out if a purchase may truly be in order. Even before diving into the whiskey itself, I’d heard about their production process which, for a craft distiller, is certainly worth boasting:
“All of our staple grains are cultivated exclusively for us on the Omlin Family farm in Quincy, Washington. The grains are mashed, distilled, and barreled in our Woodinville® distillery, then trucked back over the Cascade Mountains to our private barrel houses, where Central Washington’s extreme temperature cycles promote the extraction of natural flavors from the oak. Prior to being coopered, the barrel wood is seasoned in open air, rain, wind, sun, and snow for eighteen months, softening the wood’s harsh tannins. The barrels are then slowly toasted and heavily charred to further enrich the wood’s desirable flavors.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Woodinville was also guided by the late Dave Pickerell. Time to see what these factors combine to form for the final product.
Nose: Cherry-vanilla upfront followed by nutmeg and other baking spices. Brown sugar and a diet root beer meets Dr. Pepper meets cream soda personality. Clove, sassafras, and cinnamon spice. An oaky-molasses backbone for the spices. Dried cherry, cranberry, and prune. Post-sip brings more caramel and vanilla, but they still aren’t front and center like the baking spices, which trade blows with the dried fruit.
Palate: Immediate and consistent tingle with a bit of actual spice. Nutmeg/pepper-seasoned oak with hints of caramel and vanilla. Diet root beer with a bit of burnt toffee.
Finish: Short-medium. Spice gives way to vanilla cream with a bit of clove and anise for good measure. A tingle or brown sugar and cinnamon close things out rather abruptly.
Woodinville might be onto something here. The flavor profile is surprisingly unique compared to many other whiskeys I’ve had, bourbon or otherwise. I probably don’t need to explain at length why this has quickly earned a spot on my holiday whiskey list, thanks in no small part to the clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg notes I pulled out. These may be thanks to Washington state’s climate combined with toasting the barrels on top of the standard charring process. Also worth pointing out is that Woodinville utilize pot distillation, which I can only deduce is key to that vanilla cream note I get on the finish.
All these factors come together in a craft product that, in my experience, has above average availability and reasonable pricing to boot. $40 for an entry-level craft whiskey isn’t necessarily cheap—many heavy hitters exist at lower price points that I’d have an easier time recommending, particularly to less experienced drinkers. However, I believe most people considering a purchase of Woodinville already have a fair number of whiskeys under their belt and are looking for something just a bit different while also being high quality. To that end, I think Woodinville bourbon meets the criteria. Will I always keep a bottle on hand? Probably not. Is it worth purchasing for the curious, explorative bourbon drinker? I’d say so.