By Richard Thomas
Despite not being one of the trailblazers or early entrants to the craft whiskey scene, Woodinville Whiskey has built a strong reputation among the usually skeptical, often cantankerous enthusiast community. In my opinion, that is down to three major factors. One is that by being situated in the state of Washington, they were in a place where a lot of people were going to write about them (ala farm distilleries in New York). More important, founders Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile skipped the marketing story and presented themselves quite authentically, a move that pacifies the aforementioned cantankerousness.
Most important, they focused on top notch production. Sorensen and Carlile rooted themselves in locally grown grains, hired the legendary Dave Pickerell as their consultant, and committed to making fully mature bourbon. Tailoring their maturation cycle to the extreme climactic range of central Washington, the distillery nonetheless is currently producing whiskeys aged over five years in standard 53-gallon barrels, with no small care taken to barrel quality. All of that really sings out in an expression like their Port Finished Bourbon, which in this case is a five year old plus six months in Ruby Port casks, although the bottle lacks an age statement.
Woodinville’s Port wine barrel bourbon has a reddened, middling amber appearance in the glass, this bottled at 90 proof. Whiffing at the glass gave me a plate of rich vanilla serving up notes of red fruits and wood spices.
Sipping on this whiskey started off a touch dry, but it’s sweet in the main. Caramel and oaky tannins occupy the center stage, with red berries and grapes plus a mix of wood- and rye-driven spices occupying the wings. It’s a flavor that is surprisingly sophisticated for a merely mature, rather than middle aged bourbon, and one that made it a new favorite of mine among Port-finished bourbons. I could reach for it after dinner or for everyday drinking regularly and often, so fans of the Port finish on bourbon should definitely pick it up.
The finish treads lightly from there, walking off with the drier and oaky aspects.
This was a limited edition 2020 release, available only in Washington state when it first came out, and priced at $70.