...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Corbin Cash Merced Rye Whiskey

I knew nothing about Corbin Cash rye when my buddy Brett handed me a 2oz sample of it, more than a year ago. It sounded like yet another craft rye, probably two months old, something that will face the Market Correction Reaper in a few years.


Turns out, Corbin Cash has a pleasant story, and it's not one with Al Capone or George Washington or Ron Jeremy or John Wayne or Brooklyn water. Instead, the Souza family grows sweet potatoes up in Northern California and makes vodka out of the excess tubers. And, per K&L and D&M:
"It turns out that Corbin hasn't only been distilling sweet potato vodka over the past few years; they've also been growing, harvesting, fermenting and distilling their own rye ... The sandy soil of Atwater leeches a lot of the nitrogen deep into the earth and a cover crop is needed to help remove some of the nitrogen before another round of sweet potatoes can be planted. It just so happens that rye is the perfect cover."
That's legitimately interesting to me. But, is the whiskey good? That's the important part, especially when a bottle costs $50+. As for its age, I've seen "up to 4 years" and "3.75 years". Yet, I don't believe they list an age on the bottle itself. So I went into my tasting with low expectations.



Distillery: Corbin Cash
Type: Rye Whiskey (no straight designation)
RegionAtwater, CA
Age: see notes above
Mash Bill: 100% rye
Maturation: new American white oak 53-gallon barrels
Alcohol by volume: 45%


At first the nose has a nice combination of apples, honey and cinnamon. Then a candy cane and some malt (yes, I know there's no malt in it). There's a wave of something green, like green onions and pickle brine. But it's subtle. Later on it mellows out into vanilla bean, toffee and cream soda. Lots of spice in the palate, both of the rye and oak variety. Every other note is in the background: stone fruit, bubble gum, fizzy minerals. A little bit of alcohol heat creeps up late, making it a bit sharper. The finish is a rye bomb, like Collingwood 21 but American style. By that I mean yooge. Plenty of pepper, rye bread, a little bit of tartness and fresh ginger.


Much much better than expected. It's got a bite to it, but it drinks well neat. And the nose is very good. I can't help but think this is due to the rye spending some real time in a full-sized barrel. I'd even be willing to accept the 3.75 year story. While I'd love to see what happens with 4+ years (maybe 6?!), as it is this feels like a product ready for the market, unlike the vast majority of craft whiskey.

The price does give me pause. Three years ago, I'd be saying "You can get Willett at this price." Two years ago, I'd be saying "You can get Smooth Ambler at this price." Today, I can't say that. In fact, cheaper good rye options are dwindling. Rittenhouse BIB's quality isn't what it used to be. High West Double Rye's quality swings widely from batch to batch. Wild Turkey 101 rye is decent, if you can find it. Other MGP ryes are available here and there, but most cheap ones are very young ones. Pikesville 110 Proof and Russell's Reserve Small Batch might be the second and third best options at the under-$60 range, with Lot No. 40 (yes, the Canadian) leading the way.

So—I can't believe I'm typing this—but Corbin Cash might crack the top five sub-$60 rye list. That's partly due to the product's quality, but also inspired by the market itself.

Availability - California only (I think)
Pricing - $48-$58
Rating - 83