We first encountered this odd San Francisco-based operation’s whiskeys in 2018, when Gold Bar Original was the only expression on the market. Now Gold Bar has expanded to three offerings, including two bourbons. Only one is packaged in the “gold bar” decanter — although the “gold bar” bourbon is painted black — all of which have fortunately been updated with a small wedge underneath that allows them to stand up straight.
None of these whiskeys carries a formal age statement, but what details we do have follow.
Gold Bar Original Whiskey (2022) – Still a NAS blend of sourced whiskey from all over America, with a final mashbill of 88% corn, 9% rye, and 3% barley, but this is technically not a bourbon, finished in California wine casks made of French oak. The overall experience remains weird, though better than I remembered. Lots of toasty oak and vanilla up front, though I fortunately get less of that onion character than last time around. It does remain fairly vegetal, however, with a potpourri character adding a perfumed note. The palate is light and almost thin, quite youthful and well-sweetened with notes of cereal milk and almond cookies, filtered through a sieve of ample wood notes. It’s ultra-light on its feet for the most part, bready to the point of doughiness, though the finish returns to its rather green, vegetal core. Overall, no real change in opinion from four years ago. 80 proof. C+ / $45 [BUY IT NOW FROM GOLD BAR] [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Gold Bar Black Double Casked Bourbon – 80% Texas corn, 20% Oklahoma rye (distilled in Texas); matured in new American oak for 3 to 6 years, then finished in California wine casks. Interesting shade of orangey-pink. Another interesting experience on the nose, Gold Bar Black features hefty aromas of oak wood, though they’re tempered by some spice, floral notes, and sesame seed. That’s rather washed away on the palate, which goes full throttle on the lumberyard — Texas whiskey dialed up to 11 — aggressive with notes of mesquite, tar, and creosote. It melds weirdly with a gooey, molasses-like sweetness on the finish, which feels driven more clearly by the wine barrel finishing here than in the Original, for better or for worse. 92 proof. C / $53 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]
Gold Bar Rickhouse Cask Strength Bourbon – Same 80% corn, 20% rye bourbon; no age statement. The only whiskey in the Gold Bar lineup that doesn’t come packaged in a facsimile of a gold bar (rather it’s in a fairly traditional bottle), this is a 103 proof straight bourbon that is “matured in extra charred new American oak then raked over French oak staves” for finishing. I don’t know how one rakes a bourbon — I presume this has the same finishing as the above — but let’s put that aside for now because it may not really matter. This is… difficult stuff, much more so than the Black expression. Overwhelming with over-charred wood up front, the nose is daunting and pushy, a mix of burning lumber, spilled wine, and chimney soot, all whipped up with notes of fresh-milled grain. Much of the same awaits the drinker on the palate: The experience is vegetal and absolutely dripping with oak elements, increasingly green and pungent as time wears on. This isn’t a whiskey to let simmer in your glass to open up; it doubles down on the lumberyard and wholly dominates the senses. I could go on, but I think I’ve painted a clear enough picture on this one. Strangely cheaper than the Black expression. 103 proof. D / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]