Review: Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Bourbon

Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Bourbon
Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Bourbon

When it comes to craft spirits, they do everything the hard way in Washington State, where the norm is to actually ferment, distill, and age everything they make onsite. For a company like Woodinville Whiskey Company, it must have been madding to sit and wait for their whiskey to mature while other so-called craft spirit companies like Templeton Rye and Whistle Pig were trucking in merchant whiskey, bottling it, and calling it good.

When you do the math on many craft whiskeys, the numbers just don’t add up. How does Tin Cup have a mature whiskey on launch?  While Belle Meade Whiskey may have been made before Prohibition, how did Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery make it magically appear before their distillery was finished? This kind of ridiculous smoke and mirrors helps create an uneven playing field for a company like Woodinville, which opened in 2010 and now 5 years later has a 5 year old whiskey (that’s about as easy a math equation as you’ll ever see in spirits).

When they first opened, Woodinville produced and released an un-aged version of its whiskey, and then paired it with a small barrel and two Glencairn glasses to create an age your own whiskey kit. It was an exceptionally smart idea and one which helped generate sales while the real prize was slowly and quietly aging. So after 5 years of waiting, the Woodinville has finally arrived, and it comes in a bottle labeled “Real Craft Whiskey”.

Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey (45% ABV, ) – dark amber in color, this whiskey clearly shows off its time in barrel. That barrel impact is also quite evident on the nose which showcases strong oak and varnish. Underneath that oak are cherry, cinnamon, caramel, black pepper and clove notes. The nose is fairly tannic, with the other aromas struggling to be heard.

On the entry, sweet caramel leads things off, and it’s quickly followed by cherry and cinnamon. As we head towards the midpalate, the issue of oak becomes a concern, first presenting as sawdust and then as strong oak spice. The midpalate for the Woodinville Bourbon is very spicy with big oak spice joined by strong black pepper and strong clove. Although it’s strong, it’s not unpalatable, and at the end of this oak blast we’re left with a nice mix of flavors including caramel and dark chocolate.

The finish for this whiskey is long, and leaves a nice mix of flavors on the palate. The issues of the oak in the mix really don’t impact the finish, which ends with a nice band of cooling, the mark of good distillation.

It’s tough to rate the Woodinville Whiskey. On one hand we want to accolade Woodinville for doing it right, being patient, and not taking any shortcuts. The problem, though, is that the barrel impact is just too much. We’re not sure if it’s an issue with the barrel entry proof or just too much impact from the barrels the spirit was aged in, but the result is simply too much tannic oak. It’s a shame since the underlying spirit seems very well distilled, and the finish shows off the real promise of this spirit. It’s hard to remember that five years into business is really their first swing at making an aged whiskey, and as a first draft this whiskey has merit, but it still has a ways to go to actualize that potential. 80 points.

  • Well, those folks in KY have had upwards of 200 years to get it right and apparently, what they do is, well, right. My brother always says that if smaller, easier to move was the answer, then that’s the way you’d be getting it from the pros.

    • I think craft distillers have the ability to produce things that the majors could never even consider. Single Malt American whiskey for one. Craft can do things in the name of art where it’s much more difficult for the big distilleries to deviate very far from their core business.

      • Yes, yes they do and yes they can – craft whiskeys. I doubt they can improve bourbon or change the way it is made.
        As to wither a major couldn’t consider, I think Woodford is managing some pretty “Crafty” stuff. I would also suppose that the big guys have more wiggle room to “craft” than the little guys do, as in Angels Envy, Maker 46. I don’t imagine that either started in the range of hundreds or even dozens of barrels of finished product but they did have dozens or hundreds of good barrels of bourbon to continue the efforts.
        Many bourbon distillers are half way to the “Single Malt” in that they produce from a single distillery. Malting the grain is kinda tedious isn’t it and not even necessary when using a grain like corn as part of the mash?

        • You are thinking about Single Malt like Irish, think of it like the Scotch and it’s Single Malt Barley that the craft guys can do and the big guys just can’t