Oh, Redwood Empire! Talk about fantastic labels. The crew over in California have been cranking out good whiskey for a little while now, recently upping their product list to include Grizzly Beast and Rocket Top in 2021. I semi-recently had the pleasure of tasting through their entire lineup at a @jigzliquor event that @saxybourbon invited me to which was fun. I had also asked about the Haystack Needle release and now that it comes bearing an older age statement I finally found myself in front of a bottle where I pulled the trigger. I tasted this on two prior occasions to better know the bottle before casting any judgements. Let's see how it tastes tonight!
Company on Label: Redwood Empire
Whiskey Type: Finished Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Age: 14 years
Further identification: This is the Fall 2021 release of Haystack Needle Double Barrel is sourced from MGP and finished in a cabernet sauvignon cask; I purchased this bottle in January of 2022
Nose: Right away, beautiful, rich, syrupy fruit jump out of the glass. This is a welcome introduction to any whiskey for me. There's a stewed plum up front, sugar-laden cranberry and blackberry cobbler notes that vibrantly dance in the glass. There's a lemon meringue pie and several dashes of vanilla extract building now as the heavier fruit depart from the surface of the whiskey. The nose feel is savory now with brown sugar, ground ginger, and tempura batter. There's a lurking musty funk that must be the older oak characteristics starting to bubble up. A rich, dusty leather builds well, a hallmark of whiskey nearing or exceeding 15 years for me. It's this complex characteristic that helps bottles like George T Stagg earn high remarks for me. Now there is a bubbly lemon effervescence that triggers intense memories of early 2000s Fresca. Slight tickles of black tea dance in my nose. I'm really quite enamored with what I'm experiencing that I almost want to stop writing and just enjoy it, but I'll power on for you. There's layers of rich toffee, butter cream frosting, and a shed full of well-seasoned oak.
Now that the rollercoaster of aromas have settled some, I believe it's time for a sip!
A sip has turned this pour much brighter and it really embraces the tea and tea-adjacent aromas: think a wedge of lemon aside a cup of herbal tea and a small drizzle of honey still stuck to the spoon. The nose-feel is still all silky toffee and vanilla with zero evidence of there being any alcohol in this glass whatsoever. There's just the right balance between musty old age and sweet, fruitful exuberance on this pour. Deep inhales really show off the charred oak's beautiful vanilla characteristics. This might be the perfect nose. Syrupy marmalade, soft caramel, molasses and punchy citrus floral notes really run the full gamut of my favorite smells. The empty glass smells of honey, fresh house framing, woody florals, and a hint of sweet cherry smoke.
Palate: My first sip is delicate; it starts floral and citrus fruity on the tip of my tongue and then suddenly a tannic wave of red fruit crashes through the rest of my mouth. The linger is immediately built up, not requiring another sip to immediately follow in order to enjoy some of the undertones of this pour; raspberry and elderberry sit long in the back of my mouth. Another sip brings more of that rich citrus zest I was enjoying on the early nose. The back end shows off a sweetened tea note and old leather. Wow, on a larger sip and swish I'm presented with potent cardamom, nutmeg and molasses. As the glass weathers on I continue to enjoy the profile as it returns back to the darker stone fruits of the start of the nose. I'm kissed by a blackcurrant, tart cherry and cinnamon simple syrup. I can't find a single offensive note in this, for which I am grateful to have an entire bottle yet to enjoy and share. My last sip is careful but confident in its delivery with honey oats, soft pecans, pine bristle and a lovely long linger of a hot toddy.
This is really a tremendous pour. The finish feels really subtle upfront, likely only getting slight nuances from the secondary barrel as master distiller Jeff Duckhorn described the last time I was on a call with him. I asked specifically about the Haystack Needle. He mentioned they usually only spend a few short weeks in an extra barrel to really let the base whiskey keep on shining, because they have some really great barrels from MGP to work with. I'd tend to agree with him on that last point. This 14 year stuff is really worth it' weight in gold. I will say the tannic side of the fruit does start to get a bit overwhelming after one pour, so I'd stick to one glass of this on a special occasion. Cheers!