Review: Redwood Empire Pipe Dream, Emerald Giant, and Lost Monarch

Review: Redwood Empire Pipe Dream, Emerald Giant, and Lost Monarch

Only two years ago Sonoma-based Graton Distillery released Redwood Empire, a blend of its own microdistilled spirit and sourced whiskey. Now the brand is back with not one, not two, but three new expressions which collectively replace the 2018 release.

Here’s all the details to get you started.

Purple Wine + Spirits today announced its Redwood Empire Whiskey brand is launching three uniquely hand-crafted, barrel aged, California whiskeys: “Pipe Dream” Bourbon, “Emerald Giant” Rye, and ”Lost Monarch,” a blend of straight American whiskey. All three whiskeys are select blends of aged whiskeys between 4-12 years and are showcased in exciting new labels inspired by California’s most iconic conservationist, John Muir. In conjunction with the launch, Redwood Empire Whiskey is partnering with Trees for the Future (TREES), an NGO responsible for planting over 170 million trees since 1989. As a result of this harmonious partnership, Trees for the Future will plant a tree for every bottle of Redwood Empire sold.

Redwood Empire Whiskey embodies and expresses the authentic character of its Sonoma County, CA origins: the heart of California’s majestic Redwoods. The Redwood Empire is a stretch of land that is home to uniquely indigenous trees that are some of the tallest on earth. Each Redwood Empire whiskey blend is inspired by its namesake of an ancient tree, revered, identified by name, and then protected by our US National Parks System. They include: Pipe Dream Bourbon, Emerald Giant Rye and Lost Monarch, all designated names of sky-scraping trees that serve both as the muse that inspire each bottle’s unique aesthetics and their blend formulation.

·  “Pipe Dream” Bourbon: Standing at 367 feet, “Pipe Dream” is the fourteenth tallest tree on earth. Blended from barrels that have been aging anywhere between four and twelve years, this bourbon is a deep golden color with rich, complex flavors of vanilla, roasted pecans and a slight woody char.

·  “Emerald Giant” Rye: This expression’s namesake is the tallest tree in the Emerald Grove. It is blended from rye barrels aged three to five years and brings an amalgamation of spice, orange peel, a hint of honey and peppery cinnamon finish.

·  “Lost Monarch” Blend of Straight Whiskeys: Named for the tallest tree in the Redwood Empire’s Grove of Titans, this blend of rye and bourbon is crafted from three to five year-old rye, and four to twelve year-old bourbon.

Got all that? Less clear in the sourcing of all of these whiskeys. While the Pipe Dream bourbon notes it is distilled in “California, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee,” the other two bottlings care no distillation designation. I am presuming they are both composed of similar blends of California distillate and sourced whiskeys.

Let’s dig in. All three are 90 proof.

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Bourbon – No formal age statement, though see unofficial data above. Definitely comes across as extremely young, with strong peanut and popcorn notes on the nose, along with a bit of spice and some raw wood character. The palate feels quite simple, with a reprise of peanuts as well as brown sugar and toasty oak chips. I kept sipping and swirling, and never really got much more out of it. The finish offers a moderate level of sweetness, with the peanut brittle character never wavering. It’s not a bad bourbon by any definition, but it never offers any particular level of nuance or intrigue. B- [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Rye– Noted as “aged at least three years” on the reverse. Fresh and immediately grainy, with lots of classic rye spice aromatics sprinkled on top, aptly melding allspice with barrel char. The palate is peppery and chewy with toasted cereal, with notes of butterscotch and toasted coconut adding some nuance. Sweeter than expected, the whiskey finishes with notes of graham crackers, honey, and a slight vein of green vegetables that more than anything else in the experience point to the whiskey’s youth. Otherwise, not a bad rendition of craft rye. 

Redwood Empire Lost Monarch Blended Whiskey – This is effectively the replacement for the original Redwood Empire American Whiskey. Also noted as at least three years old. As with the bourbon, this feels like a young, soft, and rather simple spirit, despite the complexity of its blend. Lightly smoky and woody, the immediate aromatics invoke notes of mesquite barbecue and maple-soaked bacon. Leathery at times, there’s fortunately a layer of rye-driven spice underneath that brightens things up. The palate is again quite soft, with sweet notes of caramel corn and maple syrup dominant. As the finish approaches, a mild punch of spice hits the tongue along with some heavier, traditional peanut notes. All told, the character is quite similar to the Pipe Dream bourbon, so if that whiskey appeals to you, this one won’t rock the boat. B- [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]

each $45 /

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Bourbon




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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