New York

Review: Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon (Sauternes Finished) by Jason Hambrey

~6 yrs; Charred virgin oak, refill oak, and sauternes casks
Bourbon (37% Rye)
Producer Hillrock Estates (Ancram, New York)

Hillrock Estates is in the Hudson Valley in New York State, and certainly "craft” – they grow their own grain, do their own floor maltings, and are doing some creative things – they are using a solera system (the only bourbon I know of to do this) which is a process coming from sherry production where barrels are never fully drained – only part of the barrel is drained and new spirit is added to mature. Thus, a solera spirit has a variety of ages in it – all the way to a minute percentage of the original batches. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old does this with Scotch, and has achieved quite a wonderful product in doing so. This whisky is also sauternes finished – at the least, all of this leads me to be very intrigued! Dave Pickerell, notable distiller of Makers Mark and establisher of Whistlepig, is now at the helm here, too. Hillrock started out with sourced bourbon, and I am not sure if this is produced or sourced – likely sourced, for now, as it smells quite mature.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose has sweet notes of corn, rye, dried apricot, marshy earth, white grape, pear, and lots of spice. A rich, complex, buttery sweetness comes out too – likely from the sauternes – and it does a wonderful trick. The spices almost seem to be in the category of tequila – very interesting. I find bourbon to be a bit of a limited category because of the regulations, and consequently I find it often cannot rival the complexity of Scotch of Canadian – but whiskies like this tend to expand that category. A remarkable nose. The palate is complex, combining earthy corn, spicy rye, oak, and loads of spices - roasted jalapeno, clove, sharp cinnamon – along with milk chocolate, caramel, and a bit more pear. The finish is buttery, yet full of spices and grain notes and light woody incense. Wonderful stuff – this is a micro-distillery product that competes with some of the best of the big guys!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $137.