Savage & Cooke core whiskeys are perfect for holiday gatherings and giving

Savage & Cooke core whiskeys, photo via Michael Collins - FanSided
Savage & Cooke core whiskeys, photo via Michael Collins - FanSided /

Savage & Cooke released three whiskeys earlier in the year that are perfect for holiday entertaining and gifting.

Earlier this year, Savage & Cooke released three new whiskies, two of which were produced entirely at their own distillery, located just outside San Francisco, California.

In 2016, the Savage & Cooke Distillery was born. Founder Dave Phinney had years of winemaking under his belt and wanted to apply this knowledge to making fine whiskeys. The approach of finishing his spirits in wine barrels from his collection of projects has led to great success.

While many distillers will finish whiskey in various wine casks, the process used by Phinney is much more meticulous. Working with master distiller Jordan Via, there is a careful choice of hand-selected wine casks and locally grown grains that make these cask-finished expressions from Savage & Cooke really stand out.

Their three recent whiskey releases —  American whiskey, cask-finished Rye, and Bourbon — all have very specific finishes, with the American whiskey spending a few months in Zinfandel casks, the rye finishing its journey in Grenache barrels, and the bourbon maturing in Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

The result is three completely original whiskeys that have flavor profiles that are unlike anything else offered in a similar vein.

From Savage & Cooke General Manager, Lauren Blanchard:

"“We are thrilled by the reception our new whiskies have received. These whiskies represent many years of planning, experimentation and refinement. From grain sourcing to careful distillation to oak selection and precise blending, no detail was overlooked. We are so proud and now want to get these bottles into the hands of all the whiskey enthusiasts out there. There is no better time than the holidays.”"

Here are reviews and tasting notes for all three expressions.

Editor’s Note: The whiskeys were provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

Savage & Cookie American Whiskey Description

Mash bill: Corn: 66%, Rye: 30%, Malted Barley: 4%
ABV: 56.5 %
Color: Medium Amber
Age: 4+ years
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Private Barrels Available: NA
MSRP: $49

Savage & Cookie American Whiskey Tasting Notes

Nose: Being finished in Zinfandel casks, it’s not surprising that the nose is a bit wine-forward, although the sweetness isn’t too overpowering. Following the wine notes, you can pick up some maple and a bit of ripe stone fruits. It’s almost a bit syrupy smelling, like a boysenberry breakfast syrup.

Palate: The palate isn’t nearly as wine-centered as the nose. There’s a delicious pop of dark cherry at the front, followed by butterscotch (common in younger distillate), a slight hint of oak, and then rounding out with powdered sugar. The mouthfeel isn’t particularly creamy, but it’s not astringent either.

Adding a few drops of distilled water brought more of the wine into the palate, and made the the other notes a bit more pronounced.

Finish: The finish was slightly on the short side, possibly from a few months in wine casks. What you can get is a very lovely caramel cake frosting finish. Unfortunately, it dissipates all too quickly.

Conclusions: American Whiskeys can be tricky to get right, and this is a gallant effort. Only being 4-plus years old, you can definitely tell that this distillate has a lot of potential. Even now, it’s quite a decent pour. The difference-maker is the Zinfandel finish, which adds some character and taste to the whiskey that others in this price range probably won’t have. This would pair nicely with poultry, particularly if it’s been smoked and seasoned with more than the typical spice rack combination.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆

Savage & Cooke Cask Finished Rye Description

Mash bill: Rye: 51%, Corn: 45%, Malted Barley: 4%
ABV: 50 %
Color: Golden Wheat
Age: 3+ years
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Private Barrels Available: NA
MSRP: $49

Savage & Cooke Cask Finished Rye Tasting Notes

Nose: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a rye with a very high corn content in the mash that’s been finished in Grenache barrels. Much like the American Whiskey, the wine leaps front and center as soon as you put your nose to the glen. The dark herbal notes typically present in Grenache really dominate the profile of the nose. Pepper, anise, and ripe raspberry are the principal smells present.

Palate: The wine casks really show their full power in the palate. It almost tastes like you’re sipping a dessert sherry rather than a rye whiskey. The high corn content certainly helps add to the sweetness, but the unmistakable red berry Grenache profile is all over the place. Rye lovers who enjoy the grass, rye spice, and minty herbal notes may find this dram out of their profile.

Adding a splash of distilled water really made the fruit notes come forward even more, giving a candy-like taste to the tongue.

Finish: A medium-long finish that continues from the front and mid-palate. The best description I have for it is wild berry Jolly Ranchers. If the finish lasted longer I’d be searching for the pieces of candy stuck in my teeth.

Conclusions: A rye whiskey that doesn’t taste like rye? Why not. The flavor profile in this bottle is exceptional, if even a little surprising. The use of a high corn mashbill combined with the cask finish has created something few distillers will ever duplicate. Have a sip of this with your after-holiday dinner pies.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

Savage & Cookie Cask Finished Bourbon Description

Mash bill: Corn: 75%, Rye: 21%, Malted Barley: 4%
ABV: 50%
Color: Medium Amber
Age: 3+ years
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Private Barrels Available: NA
MSRP: $49

Savage & Cookie Cask Finished Bourbon Tasting Notes

Nose: This was probably the most intriguing nose of the three offerings. Yes, you can tell it’s been finished in wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) casks, but unlike many whiskeys finished in barrels that contained deep red wines with heavy tannin presence, you still get a lot of the actual bourbon in the nose. The combination of black currant, vanilla, and oak is tantalizing.

Palate: The cabernet backs off a little on the palate, but is still very present. Overall the mouthfeel is slightly dry, but not in an offensive way. Lovers of fine wines will appreciate the delicacy of the whiskey’s body. The palate dives around the various fruit notes — currant, blackberry, cherry, fig — with just a touch of white pepper, honey, and then a real twist at the end.

Finish: Seemingly out of nowhere, the finish jumps out at you with a big punch of black licorice (more like a jellybean than a traditional licorice piece), and then softens down into a nice vanilla cream. For such a young whiskey, the finish is actually quite long.

Conclusions: Again, there are a lot of bourbons out there in that $50 price point, but few will offer the rounded profile of this expression. I would say if you aren’t a wine-lover or don’t care for whiskeys that are finished in dark wine casks, then this may not be for you. But if you have a taste that veers outside the lines, then this will make you quite happy.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

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