Yesterday I sampled Masterson's Rye from my home town of Sonoma (well, from Canada really, but sold by a company based in Sonoma - hey, it's something). Today, I look at Kentucky bourbon bottled by another Sonoma company and finished in Sonoma wine casks: Hooker's House Bourbon, bottled by Sonoma limoncello makers HelloCello under the name Prohibition Spirits.
Since they use a somewhat provocative name, I should explain that Hooker's House is a Sonoma landmark, the home of Civil War general Joseph Hooker whose fondness for prostitutes led to his name becoming a general term for those practicing the oldest profession. The bottle pays tribute both to the general but also to those namesakes with a female silhouette on the label.
The whiskey is a four year old Kentucky bourbon with a mashbill of 54% corn and 46% rye grain. This is a huge rye content (the highest I've heard of for a bourbon) and not one I've ever heard coming out of one of the Kentucky distilleries. According to the folks at HelloCello, the barrels they bought were part of a pilot project that didn't go forward so the barrels were sold off. The Sonoma angle is that once HelloCello bought the whiskey, they finished it for nine months in pinot noir barrels.
Hooker's House "Sonoma-Style" Bourbon, 50% abv. ($36)
The nose on this is very nice starting sweet and fruity with quickly emerging vegetal rye notes. The palate is quite fruity, with sweet fruit punch as well as some sweet plum. Later in the palate, rye peaks out from underneath and it turns minty, which is typical of strong rye on the younger side.
This is a very nice bourbon. I'm guessing that some of the fruit forward notes are due to the pinot noir casks ageing but you also really pick up on the high rye mashbill; the fruit and spice give it a nice balance. I've been skeptical of wine finished bourbons but this is very drinkable and very nice for the price.
Lately, there have been a lot of affordably priced, very drinkable bourbons being put out by independent bottlers, which is a great trend. So far, this is my favorite of that genre that includes bourbons like Redemption High Rye Bourbon and Breaking & Entering.
Hooker's House is currently only available in California, but they are hoping to expand distribution.