Straight Edge Bourbon: David Phinney, Splinter Group, 42% ABV. 84 proof – $45-55
In California the name David Phinney is synonymous with big, jammy and unapologetic wines. He sold his Prisoner label (among others) for quite a fortune and now has entered the ever growing market of “craft” bourbon. I put that in quotations because it’s quite debatable what’s considered craft bourbon these days. Phinney’s first release is named Straight Edge, a rather boastful name with a label that is right up slasher alley.
From the Splinter Group Site:
A rare and special spirit, Straight Edge is a blend of 5, 7 and 8 year old Bourbon from Kentucky and Tennessee. The mash bill is approximately 70% corn with a balance of rye and wheat. The Bourbon was finished at our facility in the Napa Valley where it was aged in Mercury Head barrels (Dave’s high end Cabernet Sauvignon). The barrels imparted toasty vanilla and dried fruit notes while also allowing the Bourbon to soften and mellow. The spirit was aged at 124 proof and then titrated to its bottle strength of 84 proof. The water used was from Dave’s ranch that is high in the hills of Alexander Valley at over 2000 feet elevation. This property is rugged, remote and more importantly, the home to three aquifers that pump out pristine, crystal clear, idyllic water.
So, that’s all well and marketed. Wine barrels! Cab?! We’ve definitely seen and experienced other barrel finishes, Cab sounds intriguing. Water from the hills of Alexander Valley? Alexander himself swims in it! I jest. Let’s review this puppy and put it to the Booze Daddy test.
Color: Amber, Burnt Orange, the structure is certainly there.
Nose: Surprisingly pretty, refined, hints of cherry, touch of flint, mellowed sweetness, orange peel and that slight hint of wine barrel. It’s feint, but it’s there.
Taste: Caramel and candied sweetness on the front. The age shows in this bourbon, with some nice character and depth. Vanilla, with an approachable amount of oak. A bit of a chew which perhaps comes from resting in Cabernet barrels. Leather and a bit of the orange peel sneak in at the end.
Finish: This one sits in the front of your palate. Despite, the proof it lingers and reminds you that the bourbon you just drank isn’t young, but not quite old. The leather helps. A touch of dates after a deep breath in. The proof has me wanting more gravitas (Did I just use that word? Sure did.).
Final Thoughts: At this price, I’m not sure I’d pick it up as a bar staple. It has character and when it opens up the nose plays quite well. I take most bourbons straight, then with a splash of water, rocks if it’s hot outside or if the Mrs. is watching me. Straight Edge doesn’t need much of a push. What surprised me the most was considering the source, David Phinney, I expected a much bigger more powerful punch from the dram. It might be a good thing that Straight Edge is, counter to its name, a mellow sipper. The restraint is welcomed sometimes…..however, I’d love to try this at barrel strength and see how much Cabernet comes to the forefront. Overall, I’m interested in seeing what else Phinney and Splinter Group bring to the table next. Straight Edge is a fine first offering.
Booze Daddy Rating: 8.8 — gift it, not a bar staple, extra credit for originality.