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Suggestions, please, for a California bourbon?


IamMatt
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Looking for a gift for a native Californian living in MO for the last 10 years or so.  I know he likes bourbon but since I haven't seen him since I've gotten into bourbon, I don't know where his bourbon tastes run so I would prefer something with broad appeal rather than a niche profile.  Bonus points if it is a San Diego distillery (his old stomping grounds) but not necessary.  Also preferable if it is something not readily available in MO, but again, picking a delicious California bourbon is the primary goal.

 

Any suggestions?  Thanks.

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California doesn’t really have much of a reputation for producing high quality whiskey. There are various labels that make shit craft as well as NDPs in CA that bottle KY or IN juice. 
 

If I were going to buy something that is actually distilled in CA and isn’t distributed everywhere in the country, Charbay has made some interesting things in the past. A variety of styles and not always in the classic bourbon profiles but can be fun for people that want something unique.

 

good luck. There is no really easy answer for this topic that everyone would agree on, I don’t think anyway 

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I actually travel to California every year and always bring back a bottle of native bourbon.    But it's never been stuff actually distilled in California!    It's Woodinville from Washington and Frey Ranch from Utah.    

 

What I'd consider to be an interesting gift is a bourbon that's finished in quality California wine barrels.    I can think of at least two excellent ones,  Hooker's House,  which uses Sonoma barrels,  and the stuff that the Splinter Group puts out.   Straight Edge,  I think is the name,  which uses (or used to use) some Napa merlot barrels from some famous,  "maverick"  winemaker.   

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I believe @Jazzhead is right.  If you want CA to be listed on the label, a bourbon finished in California or in a California wine barrel might be your best option.  In my area, one of the larger chains has an Indiana-made section which is actually pretty large given that many NDP bottles are made by MGP.  Maybe one of the larger chains in your area can point you in the right direction.

 

Another thought is to purchase a store pick from one of the local retailers.  It will list a California store.  

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I'd go with Redwood Empire.  They are mainly an NDP bottling blends of Indiana and  Kentucky, but they do make and age their own distillate.  Their Emerald Giant Rye is my favorite so far.  They are up and coming and aging more and more of their own distillate.  They aren't ready to bottle their own stuff at decent ages (6+ years) but I'd watch for more of their stuff in the future.

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55 minutes ago, BrokeCal said:

I'd go with Redwood Empire.  They are mainly an NDP bottling blends of Indiana and  Kentucky, but they do make and age their own distillate.  Their Emerald Giant Rye is my favorite so far.  They are up and coming and aging more and more of their own distillate.  They aren't ready to bottle their own stuff at decent ages (6+ years) but I'd watch for more of their stuff in the future.

Good cal on RE. I consistently recommend their Lost Monarch and would suggest the same here. It’s a delicious and approachable finished bourye with CA on the label. And a beautiful label to boot. 

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Are you going to be in Calif. and able to pick something up there?  If so this

https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1402876&searchId=146ad952-7864-475e-8ece-bab86d98386c&searchServiceName=klwines-prod-productsearch&searchRank=2

might fill the bill if you can pick it up at their SF, Hollywood or Redwood City store.  Or have it shipped to a CA address.  For something a little bolder, K&L also has a Sonoma Distilling SiB cask strength store pick that looks interesting with smoked barley in the mashbill. 

https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1447534&searchId=146ad952-7864-475e-8ece-bab86d98386c&searchServiceName=klwines-prod-productsearch&searchRank=6

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Are you sure he is that into California ??

I would suggest a good brand, and maybe investigate what he has liked in the past. 

 

I am happy living in Kansas, but have never tried the bourbons made here. Mostly because it is expensive, and it would be a blind test. 

Wheat State is made in this city, and I should go tour, to get a free taste, but I haven’t. 

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22 hours ago, fosmith said:

Are you going to be in Calif. and able to pick something up there?  If so this

https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1402876&searchId=146ad952-7864-475e-8ece-bab86d98386c&searchServiceName=klwines-prod-productsearch&searchRank=2

might fill the bill if you can pick it up at their SF, Hollywood or Redwood City store.  Or have it shipped to a CA address.  For something a little bolder, K&L also has a Sonoma Distilling SiB cask strength store pick that looks interesting with smoked barley in the mashbill. 

https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1447534&searchId=146ad952-7864-475e-8ece-bab86d98386c&searchServiceName=klwines-prod-productsearch&searchRank=6

I live in southern L.A. County, the Hollywood store is about an hour's drive.  IIRC you have recommended their store picks before.  I may have to drive out there.

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On 7/19/2021 at 6:48 AM, IamMatt said:

I live in southern L.A. County, the Hollywood store is about an hour's drive.  IIRC you have recommended their store picks before.  I may have to drive out there.

The only problem with K&L is that their internet sales are so strong that desirable items often never hit the shelves.  So, a visit to the store may be a disappointment.  I usually search their web site and, if I find something I want, I buy it online and have it held at the store for pick up (they'll hold it for up to 30 days) or have it shipped/delivered.  But yeah, I've not yet been disappointed with one of their store picks. 

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Sounds like the plan, order online and pick up later.  I have created many a fantasy order online with them..click, click, click lol.

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I have actually tried, on 2 occasions Burning Chair & thought it to be decent. I believe it to be sourced from the "good places" and sent to CA  to sit in their wine casks. It was worth a try, but I have never upped the dough for a bottle.

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4 minutes ago, bayouredd said:

I have actually tried, on 2 occasions Burning Chair & thought it to be decent. I believe it to be sourced from the "good places" and sent to CA  to sit in their wine casks. It was worth a try, but I have never upped the dough for a bottle.

 

Same. A friend has given me a couple of sample pours of Burning Chair and I enjoyed them. The packaging is very distinctive and would make a neat gift. 

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I haven't had Burning Chair Bourbon, but the Lip Service Rye they put out is very good. I believe the rye distillate is from TN and finished in some sort of wine barrel in CA.

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The CA made bourbon ain't so great.  I haven't been impressed by the non NDP stuff.  The Sonoma stuff tastes too young.  There's Wright & Brown and Home Base in Oakland and Berkeley respectively.  

 

Old Potrero in SF makes some good rye.  St. George in Alameda makes a nice single malt.  10th St. in San Jose makes surprisingly good single malt for how young the operation is.  Seven Stills is SF make interesting whiskies out of various beers.  Charbay makes good whiskies as well though the best is prohibitively expensive.

 

San Diego Distillery make a variety of product.  I've never tried it so I can't vouch for it but you should check their website for product and where you might find it.

 

 

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14 hours ago, berto said:

The CA made bourbon ain't so great.  I haven't been impressed by the non NDP stuff.  The Sonoma stuff tastes too young.  There's Wright & Brown and Home Base in Oakland and Berkeley respectively.  

 

Old Potrero in SF makes some good rye.  St. George in Alameda makes a nice single malt.  10th St. in San Jose makes surprisingly good single malt for how young the operation is.  Seven Stills is SF make interesting whiskies out of various beers.  Charbay makes good whiskies as well though the best is prohibitively expensive.

 

San Diego Distillery make a variety of product.  I've never tried it so I can't vouch for it but you should check their website for product and where you might find it.

 

 

Yeah. My original thought to "suggestions please for a California bourbon" are the same as "suggestion please for a Texas bourbon"......Why?  Are they out of Wild Turkey and Makers near you?  I get the desire for a taste of home but in Cali that's wine or In/Out Burgers.  I always respect the effort of smaller craft distillers trying to do it the right way.  But nearly all are quite a few years away from prime time.  If someone "likes bourbon" then they've probably acquired that affinity through the enjoyment of bourbons from distilleries that measure their histories in many decades, not 3-5 years.  There are a handful of exceptions but I'm getting older and lazier by the day.  I'm tired of sifting through turds for diamonds when I can just grab a EW Black for a third or quarter of the price. 

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21 hours ago, berto said:

The CA made bourbon ain't so great.  I haven't been impressed by the non NDP stuff.  The Sonoma stuff tastes too young.  There's Wright & Brown and Home Base in Oakland and Berkeley respectively.  

 

Old Potrero in SF makes some good rye.  St. George in Alameda makes a nice single malt.  10th St. in San Jose makes surprisingly good single malt for how young the operation is.  Seven Stills is SF make interesting whiskies out of various beers.  Charbay makes good whiskies as well though the best is prohibitively expensive.

 

San Diego Distillery make a variety of product.  I've never tried it so I can't vouch for it but you should check their website for product and where you might find it.

 

 

Maybe brandy from CA would be a better choice if you're set on something in the spirits category.  Christian Bros. Sacred Bond is pretty good and not expensive.  It's bottled in bond and, I understand, aged (at least 4 yrs) in second use Heaven Hill barrels.  In the premium/super premium category, there's various Germain Robin expressions.  

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My thinking was to find a nice bourbon that was not available to him in MO, like if I went to KY I would appreciate getting a bottle from there that I can't get here in CA.  I have no problem if it is not distilled in CA but I thought a CA bourbon would be nice. 

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15 hours ago, BigRich said:

 I'm tired of sifting through turds for diamonds when I can just grab a EW Black for a third or quarter of the price. 

Brother Big Rich has just taken all of us to Church. Heed these wise words.

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On 7/20/2021 at 7:22 AM, fosmith said:

The only problem with K&L is that their internet sales are so strong that desirable items often never hit the shelves.  So, a visit to the store may be a disappointment.  

This may have changed a bit with the COVID sales explosion.  Many people in the Bay Area have claimed to have found gems on the shelves that are not in the online store offerings.  

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My recent bar experience may translate to the retail market as well.  I went to two whiskey bars earlier this month and both had a lot of bottles on their menus that they didn't have on the shelf due to supply chain disruptions, and both had bottles on their shelves that were not on their menus.  Probably the same issues with supply. 

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5 hours ago, Shizzy said:

This may have changed a bit with the COVID sales explosion.  Many people in the Bay Area have claimed to have found gems on the shelves that are not in the online store offerings.  

I am finding online selections are rarely accurate.  In most cases, similar to @fosmith, I find they are not available even when the website says they are.  However, I also see things on the shelf that aren't on the website.  I have found that when the local chains promote something on their social media accounts stuff disappears within minutes of the promotion.  I miss the old days when you could just follow the trucks around to the stores and help the delivery guy off load the bottles directly into your car.  JK on the last point.  I have never done that.

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11 hours ago, mbroo5880i said:

I am finding online selections are rarely accurate.  In most cases, similar to @fosmith, I find they are not available even when the website says they are.  However, I also see things on the shelf that aren't on the website.  

That is my experience as well.  It gives me an excuse to still head out to wander the occasional aisle. 

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