top of page

Redwood Empire Foggy Burl Single Malt Whiskey Review & Bonus Notes from Author Jes Smyth



American single malt whiskey releases continue to burst onto the scene at an alarming rate. Perhaps it is in a rush to beat the proposed definitions for ASM, or perhaps there are market signals suggesting it could be the next hot thing behind the great bourbon boom we have witnessed over the last 6 years. But what is American single malt to begin with? Well, because that proposed definition has not yet been put in place, it remains unclear. In a recent Gear Patrol article, Johnny Brayson summarizes a clear answer to this question well:

As it stands now, before government intervention, the definition of American single-malt whiskey is pretty straightforward but also unenforceable. The generally accepted definition is a whiskey that’s distilled at a single distillery in America from 100% malted barley. But because there is no official classification, a whiskey could technically label itself an American single malt even without meeting these criteria, so long as it met the existing guideline for American malt whiskey that calls for at least 51% malted barley in the mash bill. Obviously, having these posers in the market is a problem for distillers of true American single malts looking to elevate the spirit.

While final definitions are still being tweaked, it is clear that there is a strong demand for clarity in this category. Countless whiskey writers, distillers, and industry experts have added comments for the ratification of the new liquor category. I could not find a comment from Redwood Empire at the time of writing, but one such comment comes from Ryan Ciuchta, Head Blender at Kings County Distillery. He offers a response that echoes the sentiment of many of the distilleries, saying:

As a producer of American Single Malt Whiskey in the U.S., I stand with the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission and more than 100 of my fellow distillers across America in supporting the creation of a new Standard of Identity for American Single Malt. Recognizing this category will serve to greatly benefit American distillers, the whiskey industry at large, and most importantly consumers. I fully align with the Commission’s petition and and comments in response to NPRM No. 213 and urge TTB to ratify this new category as swiftly as possible.

Enter Redwood Empire with their own take on American single malt: Foggy Burl. The muse here is an interesting burly tree from the coastal Redwood Parks in California, as is tradition for their whiskey releases. They also produce rye, bourbon, and a bou-rye whiskey blend. The company self-identifies as a craft distillery while also sourcing and blending whiskeys from Kentucky and Indiana to complement their California distillate. Founded in 2015 by Derek Benham and master distiller Jeff Duckhorn, Redwood Empire is more than just a whiskey company; they are preservationists too. For every bottle sold, they commit to planting a tree through non-profit partnerships, helping to keep the legacy of old-growth forests alive for generations to come. As their own production ramps up and well-aged stocks become available for blending, expect to see more and more of their whiskeys center around the 100% grain-to-glass Redwood Empire distillate.


Redwood Empire Foggy Burl American Single Malt Sample - Pocket Sized Review

Before we get into the whiskey, I'd like to thank Jes Smyth, ace author of Time for Once and the soon-to-be-released Dream for a Second, for introducing me to Redwood Empire's latest releases. While I had previously tried all of their offerings back in November of 2021, I had not had a chance to explore the cask strength bottles yet, nor their foray into single malt. Jes, known in the whiskey community as @gigglesnsips, not only shared enough whiskey for me to be able to review the lineup on my own, but also offered to include her own writing on the whiskey at hand! I've been meaning to collaborate with Jes for a long time now, as I've always respected her palate, patience, and passionate writing style. As neither of us would describe ourselves as single malt experts, both preferring bourbon and rye, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to work together to pick apart the nuance of a growing whiskey category for big producers and craft distilleries alike.


Jes Smyth - Author of emotional fiction
Guest writer Jes Smyth, self-published author and whiskey enthusiast

Look for Jes' notes interspersed below written in turquoise to match her sweater. On to the whiskey!


 

Company on Label: Redwood Empire Distilling

Whiskey Type: American Single Malt

Mash Bill Percentages: 100% malted barley

Proof: 94°

Age: NAS

Further identification: This 27 barrel blend of 7 different malts represents batch 001 of Redwood Empire's single malt whiskey offering, available at an MSRP of $99.99


 

Nose: Wow, is that a chocolate frosted donut sitting atop a glass of Irish whiskey? Yum. Whoppers Malted Milk Balls flood my senses from the get-go. A sweet, oily feeling invades the nose as I take a deep breath in. Sifting through that chocolatey tone that has moved towards a more granular texture like hot chocolate powder I find a glass that is earthy and vegetal. Lightly seared green pepper sits atop a simmering pool of melted butter. Some distance from the glass offers dried honeycomb and field grasses waving in a light summer breeze with sun warmed strawberries in the air. Wow, long inhales are delicate and graceful like a classy presentation of tiramisu. A swirl of the glass unlocks nutmeg, resinous ponderosa pine, cumin, and undulating sage. Caramel and milk chocolate show up at the end, reminding me this blend favors some of those classic bourbon notes. It's a light set of aromas, but verdant, again earthy, and all roped together in a twisted up cotton sheet. Time for a sip!


Returning from a sip its all those cool coffee aromas, oh my. I feel like I'm in a really hip coffee shop - damnit EVERYONE is wearing a beanie in here; why did I wear a beanie today?! Can I get a large black pour over please? Oh you made it two hours ago? Yeah I'll take it iced, sure. My final sniff deep in the glen moves me back indoors to a tin box my Dad used to own filled with his old stamp collection. Woah, raspberry tones snap the mind back into reality. Chocolate remains the champion of the glass. The glencairn that has run dry offers notes of dry walnuts and Haitian legumes. The empty glen holds beach fire smoke as a salty breeze lifts off the ocean waves. This burl is certainly making my senses twirl. Let's see if the palate offers a similar one-two-sip.


Palate: Upon first letting the liquid pass the lips, the tiramisu description from the nose rings perfectly true on the tongue. Okay. Milk chocolate, you're absolutely right there at the beginning before honey and caramel enter in. Black pepper and oak tannins show up relatively soon after, making the first sip land slightly hot and dry for the proof. The mouthfeel is slightly oily with delicate Christmas spices and tons of sweet chocolate frosting tones offering their song and dance. A second swirl and sip offers gooey caramel swirls and milk chocolate that drip onto a freshly weeded vegetable garden moist from a furious ten second downpour. Taste again and you'll find savory tones one might find in a nicely marbled prosciutto. It's a creamy dram with balanced sweetness; force me to describe that linger and I'm going to tell you it is a tootsie roll through and through. Damn those tootsie rolls, that's a notable weakness in my normally-impervious sweet tooth forcefield due to the nostalgia of throwing them out to parade-watchers when I would march in the Plymouth, MA 4th of July parade back in the day. The last sip is the sweetest of the three: chocolate, toffee, honey, and a jolt of pepper. The palate is similar to the nose, a fun little fox trot sip. At the final taste, the multitude of flavors that came before all coalesce in a cacophonous, less-than-coordinated consonance. The finish is on the shorter end with espresso beans and a hint of smoke poking through.


TL;DR: Chocolate for days on this one; it's simple, but quite delicious with fun surprises along the way


 

Rating: 3/5


Fans of Irish whiskey will find a lot to love in this bottle. This could very well serve as a solid gateway for bourbon drinkers to explore the American single malt category. My only complaint is that it is, for the most part, a bit of a one-trick pony. It has a small wheel of flavors, but it does everything on that wheel really well. It's not going to be one of those impossibly long and complex whiskeys that you might sit with for several hours and continue to find nuance; nonetheless, it is certainly an enjoyable pour. With nostalgic thoughts being provoked through the experience, this is a release that I'm certainly glad to have a bottle to share. Any new bottle from Redwood Empire is an instant buy for me if I don't have it yet! I'm certainly grateful Jes chose to share this one with me. It can't score any higher just due to its simplicity, but I think this is a whiskey many will enjoy, as I did!


In case you missed the reviews of the cask strength releases, I'll link them below.



0 comments

Comments


bottom of page