not unheard of for winemakers to dip their toes into distilling and come out
with fascinating results. There’s Wollersheim, Cedar
Ridge, Huber’s Starlight,
and many others. Wineries have advantages over other startups because they already
have distributors, are familiar with legal issues, including dealing with the
TTB, and understand that not everything turns out fantastic.
Boisset Collection, headed by Jean-Charles Boisset,
owns several historic wineries worldwide. Boisset dedicated his life to winemaking
and has since established Calistoga
Depot Distillery in California’s Napa Valley.
“The debut of the Calistoga Depot Distillery spirits portfolio is a culmination of the years of work that it took to develop a collection that portrays the best in artisan distilling in Northern California interwoven with our unique savoir-faire. This is expressed through our expertise in terroir, the art of refining spirits in our own wine barrels, and a deep passion for the history of distilling in the region. We are stewards of history - both in the spirits we create and in the destination that inspired them.” – Jean-Charles Boisset
we’ll check out The First
Millionaire, labeled as an American Barley Whisky that
was aged (not finished) in 100% Napa Valley wine casks. It honors Sam Brannan,
an entrepreneur during California’s Gold Rush. Once the first miners and panners
showed up, he cornered the market for every available shovel, pan, and pick-axes
in the immediate and surrounding areas. In turn, he sold them – at markups of
1000% or more – to miners desperate to strike their fortune. By 1850, Sam was California’s
First Millionaire carries a 4-year age statement and is packaged at 45% ABV (90°).
The barley used came exclusively from Sacramento, and the distiller is
undisclosed. It stands to reason that one or more of Boisset’s wineries supplied
the barrels. It has a suggested price of $75.00 for a 750ml bottle.
The First Millionaire a bargain at that price? We’ll #DrinkCurious to find the
answer, but first, I must thank Calistoga Depot Distillery for providing me with
my sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.
poured this whisky into my Glencairn glass and sipped it neat. The liquid was
the color of deep gold. The medium rim released slow, wavy tears.
fragrance of wine filled the air while I allowed it to rest. When I brought it
close to my face and began nosing, I smelled white grapes, apples, grass, and
oak. I asked Mrs. Whiskeyfellow if she could identify the type of wine; all she
could tell me was likely not a chardonnay. When I pulled the vapor
through my lips, I tasted apple cider.
thick, creamy texture led me to flavors of crème brulee and baked apples on the
front of my palate. The middle featured milk chocolate and almond, and the back
tasted of oak, old leather, and clove.
medium duration left me with leather, oak, chocolate, and apples in my mouth
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If you blindfolded
me, handed me a glass, and told me to sip, I’d guess I was drinking a semi-dry
white wine. This did not taste like any whisky I’ve had before, malted barley
or otherwise. I’m not a wine drinker – I like wine, but I don’t seek it out. If you're into semi-dry white wines, this could be a winner.
I’ll give kudos to Calistoga
Depot Distillery for producing an unusual whisky. Despite my gravitating to unique
whiskies, I still prefer whisky to taste like… well… whisky. The First
Millionaire American Barley missed that mark. For $75.00, this is a novelty for
sure, it isn't bad, but at the same time, I can’t score it above a Bar rating. You’ll absolutely want to
try this one first before you commit. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.