AT A GLANCE
Owned by: Workhorse Rye
Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA
Still Type: Hybrid Still
Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye
Strength: 55% ABV
Price: ~$35 (200ml)
In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.
Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Palehorse matures for a year in used whiskey barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. The used barrels and shorter maturation period also explains why Palehorse has a nice light straw color.
In 2019, Palehorse Whiskey earned a bronze medal from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.
Nose: The aroma is round and inviting like freshly baked bread with a touch of yeastiness and salty air.
Palate: A little heat from the higher ABV but there is an immediate sweetness like biting into a ripe plum that still has a little bit of tannins in the skins.
Finish: The finish lingers with note of malted chocolate, plum skins, stone fruit and a touch buckwheat which slowly evolves and fades into soft notes of oak.
Conclusion: Palehorse Whiskey is very good however, those looking for a powerful rye whiskey like those coming out of Kentucky or Indiana will be disappointed. Palehorse is a delicious dram that should be tried by those who like soft grain forward whiskies like those from the lowlands of Scotland or Japan. Other than drinking neat or with a little water, I would pick delicate cocktails like a short whiskey soda or whiskey sour with fresh lemon juice. Overall, this a very beautiful whiskey.