This was from Josh (again), a housewarming gift. Josh knows what warms a home. Like last episode’s Whistle Pig, this whisky is also finished in ex-wine barrels—this time in Pinot Noir barrels. Pinot Noir is the signature wine of Oregon, apropos for an Oregon spirit.
Freeland Spirits is a fairly new distillery in Portland, OR which also produces several varieties of gin (which does not take as much aging). Like my favorite distillery, Talisker, Freeland is run by women. Freeland is also woman-owned, and is named after the tee-totaling ‘Meemaw’ (Grandma) Freeland. Their master distiller, Molly Troupe, has excellent credentials: a Masters Degree in Distillation from Heriot Watt, a major business university in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Odd fact, I have been there and did some work with them long ago.) The Freeland web site explains the bourbon operation only started in 2018, and that their bourbon was produced in partnership with another distiller. Freeland then finished the spirit.
The whiskey is a bourbon, which means under law that the spirit “must be produced in the U.S. from at least 51% corn and aged in a new barrel of charred oak” (Wikipedia). After aging in new oak barrels, bourbon can be finished and in this case Freeland have done so using the aforementioned Pinot Noir barrels for five months. That’s a long time for a finish, so I’m expecting a hefty amount of flavor
The bottle is embossed with their name and logo and has a unique teardrop shape. The batch (mine is 11) and bottle are hand-written on the cap. The spirit itself is a beautiful amber color. The Pinot finish is quite noticeable on the nose, imparting a lighter fruit bouquet than does a sherry finish. It is also sweeter smelling than a sherry-finished whisky. The sweetness that the wine finish brings mixes well with the natural sweetness of a corn-based liquor. I also get a lot of dry woodiness and some fresh hay, though this is not as grassy as some whiskies. Along with spices from the wood, nutmeg and allspice round out the profile on the nose. Note, even at the higher-than-normal 46% ABV, this spirit is very gentle on the nose.
On the palate, the mouthfeel is unctuous and the flavor complex. It starts with white chocolate, then there is a middle phase of vanilla and honey followed by cinnamon and the aroma of Pinot Noir wine. On the palate, the Freeland is not as sweet as the nose suggests but the balance is good: very modest tannins clean up quite well, with the bitterness understated and lasting a while with the Pinot.
On the whole, this whiskey really impressed.
Freeland Spirits Bourbon Whiskey, 46% ABV
Nose: Light fruit (apple, grapefruit), toffee, fresh hay, nutmeg, allspice, and woody spices.
Palate: Lovely and unctuous: white chocolate, vanilla, honey and cinnamon. Pinot Noir accompanies.
Finish: Very well balanced bitterness balances the sweet; a persistant Pinot Noir influence.
Bottom Line: At about $49 here in Oregon, this whisky is in the ‘premium bourbon’ category, and it deserves its place. It wipes the floor with the Woodford Reserve that I keep around for people who need a mixer, and is smoother and more interesting than the Knob Creek 9-year, the other bourbon I have in my cabinet. Highly recommended for those who will sip their whiskey neat.