Back in 2017, I had the chance to visit Frey Ranch in Northern Nevada, where fifth-generation owner Colby Frey—who’d already founded a successful vineyard on his land—was distilling gin, vodka, and absinthe.
But Frey also had big plans for brown spirits, and was aging several hundred casks of bourbon whiskey distilled from grains grown on his property. I was able to dip into some of the bourbon straight from the cask, then at a mighty 125 proof.
Frey Ranch Bourbon was released in January of 2020, now at a much more approachable 90 proof. It’s distilled from four grains grown on-premise—corn, winter cereal rye, winter wheat, and two-row malted barley, and aged for a minimum of four years.
Its nose features cinnamon, oak spice, cherry skins, clove, and a touch of toffee. On the front of the palate it has light flavors of creamy vanilla and toffee, which are joined by dark, juicy, and tart cherry skins at the center with oak spice and clove. Those dark fruit flavors, compounded with the spice notes and the bourbon’s all-around drier palate, provided a certain aromatic quality that made it feel like a ready-made Old-Fashioned. Cinnamon appears at its peppery finish, which is noticeably spiced yet never overwhelming, and it takes its time with a long, satisfying conclusion.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Frey’s bourbon is its texture: It’s not only creamy, but has a certain slickness and presence of body that makes you think of a good olive oil. This is a meaty bourbon, one you can really chew on without being blown away by spice. I suspect the inclusion of two-row barley has something to do with Frey’s fatty and satisfying mouthfeel.
This presence of body lend it to good use in cocktails. The body of the bourbon holds up magnificently in an Old-Fashioned, imbuing the simple cocktail with a weighty presence while also adding additional layers of spice.
— 45% ABV