Editor’s Note: This whiskey was 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.
Colorado’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is a fresh and classic brand that comes highly awarded and esteemed. The Single Malt enjoys a grain-to-glass production style, utilizing the cleanest water from the Rocky Mountains, resulting in a smooth and balanced whiskey. Founded in 2002 by Flying Dog Brewery owner George Stranahan and Jess Graber, Stranahan’s was early in defining craft distillery in the United States.
Among the latest in a line of experimental expressions, Stranahan’s Red Wine Cask Whiskey takes flavor infusion to a new level. The unique whiskey spent three years in casks that held Bordeaux and Pinot Noir wine, steeping in strong red wine notes that most definitely transferred nicely to the flavor of the whiskey. The traits of a cask are often considered in the development of a whiskey, and I found the effects of the red wine cask a very clear and present positive on this tasting.
I’ve enjoyed a few Sherry cask finishes, but something special emerged from the Bordeaux and Pinot Noir casks, giving wine notes that are distinctive but not overwhelming, and providing a Single Malt discovery that rests in a category all on its own. Ageing and finishing whiskey in wine casks is growing in popularity, but I do think it takes a discerning distiller to deliver something so influenced by the cask while still holding onto what makes the whiskey appreciated.
I did get a good amount of tannins in the whiskey, which I think is what stuck out the most, along with a bittersweet note that I don’t normally experience in a Single Malt. While these aspects may be off-putting in the wrong hands, I feel like Stranahan’s Red Wine Cask Whiskey manages to balance the classic 100% malted barley recipe and the strong influence of the finishing cask very well.
At times it feels like there’s been a kind of exponential growth of craft distilleries in the U.S., and it is easy to write off certain limited releases as trendy or cliche, I appreciate the exploration of unique cask finishing as a way to break out of the prototypical whiskey tasting.
Tasting Notes: Stranahan’s Red Wine Cask Whiskey
Vital Stats: Distilled from 100% malted barley. Small-batched. Matured 4 years in virgin American Oak with #3 char. Finished for three years in Pinot Noir and Bordeaux casks. Non-chill filtered, cut to proof with Eldorado Springs Rocky Mountain water. 90 Proof (45% ABV). SRP $69.99/750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Enjoys long legs and a deep tawny color.
Nose: There’s a distinct jammy red wine aroma, fresh fruit and hay, along with the undertone of honeysuckly and vanilla.
Palate: Wowza, that red wine cask makes its presence known! Earthy and sour in all the best ways, this whiskey came straight off the vine. Full-bodied and grounding, there’s a staccato heat, with a frizzante, cola-noted finish.