Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Frey Ranch Distillery
Distillery: Frey Ranch Distillery
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years based on label requirements set by TTB)
Mashbill: 66.6% Corn, 11.4% Winter Rye, 10% Winter Wheat, 10% Two-row Barley
Color: Golden Oak
MSRP: $50 (2022)
Frey Ranch Distillery is an estate distillery located in northern Nevada. On this 165 year old, 1,500-acre family farm, they grow all of their grains, malt their barley onsite, and the whiskey is both produced and aged on their grounds. The whiskey goes through both a continuous still and pot still, which according to the company, “allows us to produce a large quantity from the continuous still while also being able to consistently take heads, hearts and tails cuts (better quality/control) that a pot still provides.” In 2006, they became the first licensed distillery in Nevada since the advent of Prohibition. First offering just vodka, they distilled their first batch of bourbon in 2015 and released it to market in 2020.
Bottle in review is from batch no. 04.
Sweet citrus over dense oak and candy corn lay the groundwork. Medium intensity affords approachability with a noticeable lack of heat. A transition to light spearmint and baking spice provides moderate depth, but also a degree of excitement. It’s an enjoyable aroma that works well as it comes together.
Toffee and caramel start out of the gate, which are quickly followed by light vanilla, green apple, citrus, and tempered apricot. The palate hits with approachable intensity allowing the flavors to breathe. Though light on complexity, this is nicely offset by its overall sweet and savory consistency of its flavors. While the palate doesn’t immediately wow you, you’ll be convinced by it by sip’s end.
A soft ramp up in dry oak and rye spice is a welcomed contrast to the whiskey's sweet and savory base. This shorter finish is all too fleeting at times, leaving only a faint trace of spice on your tongue. Thankfully, trace amounts of the palate’s citrus and apricot remain during the finish providing some interesting exchanges with the dry oak and rye spice. What is offered works well, but is in need of some more time to fully develop itself.
Estate distilling isn’t a new concept in American whiskey, but because of the knowledge base, manpower, space, and cost needed to pull it off, it isn’t exactly all that common either. While many brands claim “grain to glass” or similar reworkings of that phrase, not all farm to bottle whiskeys are created equal.
The concept of terroir is a popular one in the world of wine, and has slowly been developing more prominence in American whiskey. There are conflicting beliefs about which is the better route to go: either sourcing the best ingredients to make the best product you can, or being a jack of all trades in order to create a complete product from start to finish. There are certainly strong arguments for both, but there is something to be said of knowing that a product is the direct result of the land and people of a particular place. In a sense, estate distilling is the true craft whiskey.
With my experiences with estate whiskey, there is no denying their immediate impact even after just one sip. They taste unique and while that doesn’t necessarily mean they taste out-of-the-world unique, they taste uniquely their own. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon’s use of four grains has resulted in a notable citrus influence, with veins of spearmint and apricot, and most noticeable its sweet and savory constitution. But this is a bourbon that benefits from the sum of its parts. It’s when all of these parts come together is where the bourbon’s real magic happens and flourishes.
We often cite the massive cost craft distilleries take on when starting in the spirits business, and how it influences the price of their products. Yet, these young distilleries don’t live in a vacuum and must directly compete with more established companies that can price their products more competitively. There’s little doubt it must be an enormous cost to run a farm and estate distillery like Frey Ranch. Being established for 165 years probably helps mitigate some costs, but still doesn’t diminish what it probably took Frey Ranch to price their bourbon at $50.
In the realm of craft distillery pricing, that is probably right in the middle of the pack. It is just enough to communicate that this isn’t a budget bourbon and that it offers inherent value based on its price. The price hits the range that doesn’t quite push a consumer out of their comfort zone when deciding to take a chance on a craft bourbon they might not be familiar with. Thankfully for those that decide to give Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon a try, they will receive a bourbon worthy of its asking price. Mileage may vary as there is no guarantee you’ll love Frey Ranch Bourbon’s particular taste. But the quality is there, and for those who enjoy it, they will have no issue with its price.
Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon nicely showcases the value of estate distilling by offering a quality bourbon with a taste that is all their own.
It can be hard to stand out in the crowded bourbon marketplace. With large companies constantly turning out new releases, and new craft whiskey popping up on what feels like a daily basis. Craft distilleries have worked hard to shed the negative connotation that became associated with them thanks to a slew of rush-to-market products in the 2010’s. While Frey Ranch still has room for improvement which will likely come with additional aging time and a finetuning of their craft, the here-and-now Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon proves craft distilleries have a lot to say and are worth your attention.