Burning Chair

Maker: Savage and Cooke, Vallejo, California, USA.

Distillery: Ross & Sqibb, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA.

Style: Bourbon whiskey finished in Zinfandel and Grenache (70/30%) barrels.

Age: NAS

Proof: 119 (59.7 ABV)

Barrel: 213

Purchased for $70 (Vine and Table)

Tasted with a little water.

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Big spice, char, cayenne, oak, and sweet red wine.

Palate: Full-bodied with a velvety, sweet opening. Wild cherry Lifesavers, then oak, spice, and burn that slowly grows until it burns the roof of my mouth like a hot slice of pizza.

Finish: Burn and cherry wine. Not quite cough syrup but right on the edge.

Parting words: Savage & Cooke is a restaurant/distillery in Vallejo, California. It was founded and is owned by Dave Phinney, known as “the The Prisoner Guy” in wine circles. It’s another case of a rich guy getting into the micro-distilling business, and also another case of a distillery that seems to be more of a distillery-themed restaurant than what normally passes for a distillery.

As cheesy as all that sounds, this is one of the better finished bourbons I’ve tasted. One of the keys is starting with good, already aged whiskey. Too many producers, large and small, try to use finishes to cover up flaws in the spirit. That almost never works, so I’m glad Savage & Cooke didn’t try. This has a solid whiskey base. The finish is noticeable, but not overwhelming, and well-integrated. It’s everything a wine-finished bourbon should be.

The price, on the other hand, is higher than it should be. I knew $70 was too much when I paid for it, but it is barrel strength, unavailable in the Mitten State, an exclusive retail bottling, and Dave Helt was pouring samples of it at the time. So I paid it, and I haven’t really been disappointed. As a result, Burning Chair (barrel 213) is recommended.

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