You don’t have to be on the legendary “Bourbon Trail” in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to find producers of great American whiskey. Though bourbon is one of the most heavily regulated spirits in the world, it – along with American rye – can be made anywhere in the USA.
Sonoma County Distillery has been making exquisite spirits since 2010 in the heart of California wine country. Using an old cognac still that now only distills whiskey, SCD produces its flagship 100% Sonoma Rye, the 2nd Chance Wheat (a softer crowd pleaser), and the buttery, “West of Kentucky” bourbon. At the distillery, guests can also try various experimental casks and different proofs of their whiskies.
The Sonoma County Rye easily punches in the same weight class as American ryes from Kentucky. Go with the cask strength, $60 (USD) 53%, a beautiful expression of copper pot distilled rye aged in new, charred American oak. Elegant and subtly sweet on the entrance with a bold, spice-forward backbone, this is one of the best balanced ryes on the market, period!
Though SCR products are currently only available to Canadians in Alberta, word is that these whiskies will soon be available in BC, too! Stay tuned, and cross your fingers that the taxman makes them affordable.
Pro tip: if you ever find yourself in Sonoma, book a tour and see the aging facilities. Aging is a fascinating and sometimes hidden part of the whiskey-making process, and there are no hidden tricks here. It’s full disclosure across the board, and the smells are just as intoxicating as the drams themselves.