Whiskey Name: Stony Point
Whiskey Type: American whiskey
Release Date: General
Mashbill: Corn and rye. Don’t know percentages, but for reasons elaborated on below, I imagine it’s 50:50.
Introduction/Background: Let’s be completely clear up front. This review is working off a sample kindly sent on behalf of Griffo distilleries. BBS didn’t pay a penny for it.
Although free samples are commonplace in the world of whisk(e)y reviewing, there’s always an inherent question over whether a review can be as objective when the review hasn’t stuck his or her hand in her own pocket. Which is why we wrote this code of conduct. Have a read.
Anyhow, Griffo kindly offered us the sample, we accordingly said ‘yes please’, all of which brings us to this review. A first for the BBS. Brave new world.
Griffo are based out in Sonoma, home to another distillery of which we’re rather fond. Personally I first encountered Sonoma through the medium of wine. It makes some of the best to come out of California, and I’ve yet to find a whiskey that’s quite as good.
You can find out more about Griffo on their website, but what struck me was the rather brave move on their part to make a product labelled simply as ‘American whiskey’.
Labelling one’s product as ‘American whiskey’ leaves things rather ambiguous in a category that likes to keep its juice pretty heavily defined. You tend to know where you stand, certainly grain-wise, with US whiskey. Rye. Wheat. Malt. Bourbon (corn).
‘American whiskey’ doesn’t necessarily conform to any of these categories. Which leaves the possibilities theoretically endless, but risks your whiskey being left on the shelf by nervous consumers who like a reassuring signpost or two.
So: Stony Point American whiskey. What is it? Well, it’s a blend of corn and rye, but is neither a bourbon, nor a rye whiskey. It’s aged entirely in virgin oak (a mixture of US and French) and therefore could legally be a bourbon if its corn content was 51% or more. And, by extension, a rye if its rye content was 51% plus. Since it is labelled as neither, you’d assume it’s 50:50. But that’s just conjecture.
That’ll probably do for preamble. Stony Point’s made from local grains, hand-milled and fed through Griffo’s custom still, Betty. You can pick it up on Master of Malt for a whisker more than sixty quid.
Appearance: Pale copper
Nose: Seriously grainy nose. Young, and rather sharp. There’s a certain musky, dusty, animal quality to the grain too. Farmyardy stuff. The sharpness comes through dabs of citrus. Sherbet lemon. A few splashes of sugar, though this whisky sits heavily on the savoury side. The lightest flutter of sultana an clove after a while.
Mouth: Palate’s more luscious than I was expecting; bit more corn influence here perhaps. Still grainy – rye bread and malt loaf. (Wasn’t expecting that, given I don’t think there’s any malt involved!) The spices are more pronounced than on the nose. Clove again, but a touch of cinnamon and pepper too. Zesty, lemony acidity.
Finish: Peppery and mouthwatering.
Value for Money: A bit dear at UK rates. As is now almost standard procedure with US craft stuff.
Summary: Doesn’t feel quite finished to me. Overtly young, and a riot of grain flavour. The rye is a little too sharp for my taste, and I speak as a man who eats slices of lemon. The palate picked up from the nose, but I think the whole thing could do with a bit more time in casks.
That being said, it’s clearly good spirit, and the grains are very characterful. Not the first time we’ve seen a craft whisky bottled at less-than-ideal age, and I very much doubt it will be the last.
What this whiskey could really do with is a little more depth. Something to tone down the sharpness of the grain, and to add a little bass to the young high notes. I fully understand the need to get product on shelves quickly if a craft distiller is to start clawing back revenue. So, in the absence of extra years, a couple of thoughts:
Cherrywood smoke springs to mind. We’ve seen its transformative effects on the stunning Boutiquey FEW, and Sonoma have deployed it handily as well. Alternatively, a measured finish, or maturation in another sort of barrel. With so many superb wines for neighbours, opportunities are endless. Although, as we’ll see in the next review, Griffo have actually taken a slightly different approach.
Just something to reduce the raw aggression of the grain. Because this isn’t a bad whiskey, the way that some we’ve reviewed have been. But it does feel rather like a work in progress.
Overall Verdict: If you like your whiskies super-grainy you could have a lot of fun here. Feels a little too young to me at the moment though, especially for £60.
Note: sample provided on behalf of Griffo.