EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: California

Review: Workhorse Rye Redhorse Whiskey

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: 60% 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 Redhorse matures in used wine barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. For this particular bottling, Easter aged the whiskey for two years in used Broc Cellers Syrah casks before being bottled at 60% ABV.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: On the nose there are fantastic aromas of a nutty Manzanilla sherry intermixed with notes of dried dates, raisins and prunes compote cooked with cinnamon sticks. As the whiskey breaths aromas of dark cherries and chocolate strawberries start to break through.

Palate: On the palate the whiskey is intense with big flavors of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and hazelnuts. With a little water the flavor broadens and opens with more oak notes from the barrel and a touch of milk chocolate.

Finish: The finish lingers with notes of roasted nuts, baked apples and a touch of orange blossom honey.

Conclusion: Redhorse Whiskey is an intense and decadent whiskey that should be sipped over a large ice cube or used to make a fantastic Manhattan. Drinkers who like nutty sherries should search this out and sip judiciously.

Review: Spirit Works Old Tom Gin

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, California

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Old Tom Gin

  • Strength: 44.9% ABV

  • Price: $32 (375ml)

Founded by Timo and Ashby Marshall, Spirit Works Distillery is a grain-to-glass distillery situated in downtown Sebastopol, California that specializes in a variety of whiskeys and gins. For more than five years, Timo and Ashby have been leading a dedicated team producing some of the best spirits in the state.

Their new distillery exclusive is Old Tom Gin. According to gin expert David T. Smith, in his Forgotten Spirits & Long Lost Liqueurs, old tom gins were invented during England’s 18th century “Gin Craze” as a means to hide the poor quality of the base spirit with sugar or with more intense botanicals. Today, quality neutral spirit to make gin is not an issue, but old tom gin has made a resurgence in part because it works very well in a number of classic cocktails.

Spirit Works’ Old Tom began as the brain child of Timo and starts with the classic gin botanicals of juniper, coriander, angelica root, cardamom, lemon and orange zest, rounded out with the addition of orris and licorice root. After distillation, the gin is rested for a three months in used wheat whiskey barrels and then sweetened with a little bit of local organic honey. This rest period gives the gin a light amber color and with the honey creates a nice round mouthfeel.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose is lovely and inviting with notes of lemon and juniper followed with just a touch of honey and vanilla. Underneath the top aromas there is an interesting earthy aroma like toasted bread and a hint of spice that is reminiscent of citrus, juniper and rye.

Palate: On the palate the gin starts with a little heat but that quickly subsides into welcoming flavors of juniper, honey, and citrus that are slightly mellowed with a little woodiness. The honey gives the gin a very subtle sweetness, but it is balanced just perfectly, with no cloying sugar coating the palate, just nice and clean.

Finish: The finish is long with light notes of honey followed by warm oak character and just a touch of bitterness from the juniper.

Conclusion: Spirit Works Old Tom is a delicious example of the category and it is extremely versatile. Despite its near 90 proof bottling strength, the gin is easy to sip neat, and works well stirred on ice and served up with a twist. This old tom also work extremely well in classic gin cocktails like the Martinez and the Negroni. With this distillery exclusive, Spirit Works has once again demonstrated their incredible skill, and gives gin fan yet another reason to make the trek to Sebastopol and stock up on this fantastic spirit.

Review: Astral Pacific Gin

Photo by The Spirit Guild

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: The Spirit Guild in Los Angeles, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Founded in 2012 by Miller Duvall and Morgan McLachlan, The Spirit Guild is a beautiful fruit to glass distillery in LA’s Arts District. Duvall’s family has been farming in California for six generations which partially inspired their decision to use state grown agriculture to distill into spirits. The base of their gin starts off as whole clementines which are fermented and distilled into a neutral brandy. The neutral brandy is then redistilled with juniper, coriander, angelica, cinnamon, grapefruit peel, clementine peel, orange tree leaves, pink peppercorn, pistachio nuts, sage, and orris root. After distillation, the gin is proofed to bring the alcohol content down to 43% ABV before bottling.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of downtown LA, definitely put The Spirit Guild on your list of places to visit. Their tasting room, in the front of the distillery, is an incredibly beautiful space with west facing stain glass windows that allow the bright Southern California sunshine to pour through and bathe the space in warmth and color.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The gin has a fragrant aroma of pine trees and fresh orange juice followed by an herbaceous note of oregano and a bright hit of clementine.

Palate: On the palate the gin is medium bodied and a little hot on the tongue. The flavors start with spicy notes of of juniper and black pepper which is balanced with a light orange sweetness.

Finish: On the finish the citrus character carries through with lingering flavor of grapefruit peal and a light bitter pith sensation.

Conclusion: Astral Pacific Gin is an interesting combination of juniper and multiple layers of citrus. As a contemporary gin that puts less emphasis on the juniper and more other other botanical, using a citrus brandy as the base is a unique and smart way to add layers of complexity. Overall, Astral Pacific is an interesting gin that lends itself to mixing in spirit forward cocktails and would be appreciated most by those that like citrus forward gins.

Review: Gin Farallon

At a Glance

  • Distilled & Owned by: Coastal Spirits in San Carlos, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Gin Farallon is the brainchild of Brad Plummer, the owner and operator of Coastal Spirits. Tucked into a small business park in San Carlos, CA, Plummer has been making gin, vodka and a number of liqueurs for the past few years. Gin Farallon starts with a neutral corn spirits which he redistills to remove some of the harsher elements. Plummer fills the still with his re-distilled neutral spirit and botanicals, some of which he macerates before distillation. After the gin is distilled,  Plummer proofs the spirit with water he has infused with cucumber. In 2017, Plummer's passion and work was rewarded when Gin Farallon earned a gold medal from the Judging of Craft Spirits.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose opens with aromas of cardamom, and dried orange peal. As it breathes, notes of angelica, orris root and bright pine begin to come forward. 

Palate: On the palate the gin has a very full body that shows lots of spice character from the cardamom and orris root and a slight green character perhaps from coriander.

Finish: The finish had a nice warmth that isn't harsh. Immediately after drinking, warm citrus notes dance on the tongue followed by earthy cucumber and floral notes supported be a lightly resinous flavor from the juniper. 

Conclusion: Gin Farallon is a very lovely contemporary gin that shows complexity in the botanicals though no one is overwhelming. True to the commentary style, the juniper plays a supporting role and is key to its overall balance. If you enjoy gin without an intense juniper character, check out Gin Farallon and use it to make a great Negroni, a floral gin and tonic, or even an aviation.

Review: Spirit Works Barrel Gin

Barrel Gin, distilled by Spirit Works Distillery and bottled at 45% ABV.

Price Range: $50-$60

Spirit Works Distillery is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team, Timo and Ashby Marshall. Ashby is their head distiller and Timo works as tour guide, operations manage, brand ambassador and a number of other roles. 

Spirit Works Distillery is located in downtown Sebastopol, in a newly developed business district called The Barlow. In addition to Spirit Works The Barlow brings together a number of local art, food and beverage producers including a winery, a brewpub and coffee roaster. I highly recommend taking their tour and visiting some of the other cool shops.

Timo told me that at first they hadn't planned to make an aged gin but I am glad they did. Barrel Gin starts off as their regular gin which is distilled with juniper, orris root, angelica, cardamom, coriander, hibiscus and hand-zested orange and lemon peel. Some of the botanicals are macerated in the still and some are place in a gin basket. After the gin has been distilled, some of it ages in new American White Oak barrels for several months. 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Barrel Gin smelled of dried orange peal, baking spices, and a faint, underlying sweetness like maraschino cherries.

Palate: Barrel Gin tasted of bright citrus, with a smooth sweet flavor of fresh table grapes.

Finish: After swallowing the flavors lingered for a little while and my mouth had a pleasant warm sensation without any burn.

Conclusion: For those who like aged gins, Barrel Gin is a great addition to any liquor cabinet. I particularly like how the nose has begun to develop some of the rich spicy notes that come from barrel aging while maintaining some of the fresh flavors of their regular gin. Very well executed and Barrel Gin makes me even more excited for their upcoming whiskeys.