It’s surprising that more aged spirits aren’t made in the solera style. For the uninitiated, solera aging involves moving spirits from younger barrels to older barrels, bit by bit, until the liquor in the oldest barrel is bottled — the oldest of the old blended with a bit of spirit from a wide variety of ages. Solera is commonly used in rum as a way to add a high level of complexity to the spirit.
Here, Hillrock Estate, based in New York, uses solera barrels to age its “field to glass” whiskey, taking estate-grown Bourbon and marrying it with mature “seed” Bourbon, then putting it through a series of casks, including a finishing run in 20-year-old oloroso sherry casks. The current age of Hillrock is six years old, with a mashbill that includes 37% rye.
You needn’t delve too far into Hillrock Bourbon to see that this is a spirit of truly impressive pedigree. The nose hits you fast and powerfully: Burnt caramel, dark brown sugar, vanilla, mint, and a modestly woody back end. The body offers immense complexity: Beautiful fruit and layered spices, luscious creme brulee, marshmallow, and an almost raisiny sweet finish. The balance of all of this is nearly perfect, coming together as an altogether brash experiment in whiskeymaking that works far better than you would ever expect.