Review: Savage & Cooke Core Whiskeys 2024 – American Whiskey, Cask Finished Rye, and Cask Finished Bourbon

Review: Savage & Cooke Core Whiskeys 2024 – American Whiskey, Cask Finished Rye, and Cask Finished Bourbon

At the end of 2023, Savage and Cooke rebranded its permanent lineup, revamping its core whiskeys, ditching the avant garde photography, and formally changing its name to Savage & Cooke instead of Savage and Cooke. I already miss Margaret Pattillo‘s remarkable label pictures; the new text-only labels are about as far from the original designs as they can get. But, I suppose, it’s what’s inside the bottle that really counts.

Let’s taste the trio, all produced by Dave Phinney and Jordan Via on Mare Island in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stay tuned for more S&C reviews to come.

Savage & Cooke American Whiskey – Made from a mash of 66% corn, 30% rye, and 4% barley — but it’s not bourbon, as it’s aged 4 years in used ex-bourbon barrels and finished in zinfandel barrels for about 2 months. While the whiskey is cask finished like the other two releases in the collection, the formal name doesn’t stress the wine barrel aging it undergoes. It’s also bottled at cask strength (unlike the other two bottlings), at 56.5% abv. Aggressively grainy on the nose — the rye does most of the talking here, for better or worse. Bold grassiness is countered by some baking spice elements, heavy on cinnamon and nutmeg, with the gritty punch of wet asphalt layered over it all. The palate ekes out some sweetness, but it’s a long time coming, those spice notes opening a door to notes of peanut butter, more akin to satay sauce here, then slowly giving way to hints of cherry and raspberry. Light chocolate and vanilla swirls on the back end, finishing on crunchy peanut. 113 proof. B+ / $45

Savage & Cooke Cask Finished Rye Whiskey – 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% barley — all grown within 50 miles of the distillery. Aged 3 years in new #3 char oak barrels (often longer) and finished in Phinney’s grenache barrels for about 2 months. A very exotic rye, and you can see why this is the “house rye” of a winemaker. The nose is boldly fruity, a mix of blackberry and citrus notes, with aromatic florals underneath. It smells more like a wine than a whiskey, and I mean that as a compliment. The palate brings in notes of menthol and camphor, spice and floral elements mixing together indiscriminately. Peppery, grassy, and touched with vanilla on the finish, I don’t think you’ll find a more effusive and unique rye on the market. 100 proof. A- / $50

Savage & Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon Whiskey – 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley — all local. Aged 3 years in new #3 char oak barrels (or more) and finished in Phinney’s cabernet barrels for about 2 months. Again quite youthful on the nose, peppery, minty, and a bit corny all at once. There’s an orange peel aroma that evokes an Old Fashioned, with lumberyard oakiness layered over all of it. The palate is decidedly un-bourbonlike, with elements of chamomile tea, more mint, and a sharp orange peel note (more Old Fashioned fodder), before relenting to let in more traditional vanilla and some chocolate character. Edgy and sharp throughout, with a biting, peppery quality on the back end that clings to the back of the throat. Some camphor gives the finish a bit of a quick bite, though it’s not without an oddly soothing quality, culminating in a touch of butterscotch. 100 proof. B+ / $50

Savage & Cooke American Whiskey




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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