“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” ― Gloria Steinem
Woodinville Whiskey Co. is a brand that has been on the rise for quite a while now. Established in 2010, they first began to garner the attention of bourbon enthusiasts back in 2016 when they won the American Distilling Institute’s Craft Whiskey of the Year award.
Woodinville was subsequently acquired by the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH in 2017. Since then they’ve continued to mature, and have undoubtedly grown into one of the premier craft distillers in America, going on to capture a double gold and be named Best Straight Bourbon at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Awards in 2020.
The story of how they started is new-ish in the bourbon world, but has also quickly become one that savvy readers should be familiar with. Two best friends had a crazy dream of starting their own whiskey brand, armed not with grand-dad’s long lost recipe, but simply an earnest desire to make good bourbon The Right Way™.
For Woodinville this has meant using 100% Washington State grains grown by a single source (Omlin Family Farm) for the sake of consistency, controlling every aspect of the distillation process, and studying under the tutelage of a beloved industry legend who they credit with giving them the road map to success: the late Dave Pickerell of Maker’s Mark fame.
Not only was Mr. Pickerell world renowned for his time at Maker’s Mark, but he’s also considered a trail blazer for the work he did with several other craft distilleries, helping them to establish their footing in the industry and assisting them with their distilling practices. That client list extends from Whistle Pig to Woodinville and beyond; as far as mentors go there are few who stand as his equal.
For their part, despite sticking to an increasingly common script among craft distillers of note (and the untimely passing of Dave Pickerell in 2018) Woodinville Whiskey Co. does seem to be thriving by doing things The Right Way™.
Our fearless leader Taylor had the opportunity to try one of their single barrel offerings a little over a year ago and awarded them high marks, but seeing as how I once called single barrel assessments “pure onanism” I felt it only right that we here at Malt should review their flagship expression. After all, the standard 90 proof version of Woodinville bourbon is the expression with the most widespread distribution and also their most awarded.
In order to find out if best friends/founders Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile’s crazy dream was coming true or worth waking up from, I reached out to the brand and they generously supplied me with the bottle I’ll be trying today. The specifics of this expression are as follows:
Aged 5 years, with a mash bill of 72% corn, 22% rye, 6% malted barley. MSRP for this expression is $40.
Woodinville Bourbon – Review
Color: Translucent light hazelnut
On the nose: A surprising blast of crème brulée and piña colada wafts out of the glass first, as the intriguing caramelized sugar, pineapple, and coconut mix sets the stage before introducing the aroma of corn pudding, a certain floral aspect, and a more airy sweetness like whipped cream.
In the mouth: Another surprise as hot chocolate with coconut flakes is the first flavor out the gate with an umami savoriness in close pursuit. Marked by a silky and enjoyable mouthfeel with very little burn I immediately think to myself that this bottle will be “crushable” in colloquial parlance. The finish is of short to medium length, which is to be expected at this proof point, but the refined sweetness with bits of coconut remains on the tongue in a satisfying way which implores repeat sips.
I found this bottle to be instantly entrancing both due to the surprisingly creamy texture and the delightful, relatively unique flavor profile. It certainly does veer into your more expected caramels-and-vanillas, but that I got a healthy dose of coconut (which I love), along with those traditional flavors was a welcome departure from the norm. Another point worth applauding is the price. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of its proof, but that Woodinville’s flagship bourbon performs so admirably at a relatively low ABV only makes the thought of buying a backup bottle that much more enticing.
Doing things The Right Way™ is often only lip service lavished by upstart brands on a public too inundated with craft distilleries to have tried the vast majority of them (and thus cast at a disadvantage in attempting to recognize such nuance). In discovering that Woodinville Whiskey Co. has learned well from the lessons of Dave Pickerell and crafted a high quality flagship expression, it gives me hope that a “crazy dream” for more distilleries can come true sooner rather than later.