Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon

Alex author
Founder, writer
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Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon Details

Distillery: Savage and Cooke

Type & Region: Bourbon, California, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley

Aged: At least 3 years

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet, muscat)

Price: $50-55

From the company website:

Distinctive and pronounced, Dave Phinney’s house Bourbon. Mature yet lively and loaded with character. Aromas of orange peel and honey mingle with toasty oak and caramel notes that are consistent through the palate. Lush and complex, gorgeous start to finish.

Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon overview

To wrap up my trio of Savage and Cooke whiskey reviews, I now try Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon. Before I dive into more details, this is a 3 year old bourbon distilled and aged by Savage and Cooke, in California, and partially finished in cabernet sauvignon casks that come from Dave Phinney’s wine-side of his business.
Savage and Cooke was founded by Dave Phinney, who apparently is a well known figure in wine. He’s possibly best known for his work with Orin Swift Wineries and The Prisoner brand of wines. The Prisoner may ring some bells because those casks were used to finish Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Prisoner Finished Bourbon and High West’s Prisoner Cask Finished Whiskey
After selling some of those very successful brands, he dove into whiskey for a new challenge, founding Savage and Cooke in 2016. This endeavor marries his extensive wine experience with American whiskey.
The distillery itself is located in Mare Island, California, which is sort of kind of close to San Francisco and Sacramento. It’s still close to California’s prime wine-growing regions, which makes sense given Dave’s experience.
Because the company can better describe this bourbon, see below for additional details that are also on Savage and Cooke’s website.
All grain is grown within 50 miles of the distillery. Direct relationships have been forged with local farmers and grain is grown to a precise specification. Yellow corn makes up the bulk of the recipe, followed by rye and malted barley.
Whole kernels are delivered to the distillery and then milled and mashed on site. Following fermentation, the wash is distilled in a 20 plate, 24” Vendome Copper & Brassworks column still. Five batches of distillate are blended at a time for consistency prior to barreling.
White American Oak Char #3 barrels are hand-crafted by local cooper Seguin Moreau and the Bourbon is aged for a minimum of three years, and often longer. All aging is done on site in one of three locations, all with ideal yet different conditions relating to temperature, humidity, sunlight and air flow.
Once deemed mature by Master Distiller Jordan Via, a portion of the Bourbon is transferred to Dave Phinney’s Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for a period of about two months. This additional aging adds flavor, texture and character.
Pristine water is pulled from a spring on Dave’s high elevation mountain property in Alexander Valley, not far from the distillery
I’m going to call out one thing that’s peculiar – the 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley mashbill used to craft the California-distilled bourbon. That’s the exact same mashbill as MGP’s extremely well-known and often used bourbon mashbill, and one also used by Bardstown Bourbon Company. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Savage and Cooke used the same ratios.
I suspect that they knew that they already liked what MGP produced, and chose to mimic it while changing it up by sourcing grains from around the distillery. That’s just my speculation, but it’s definitely not an accident that the percentages are the same.
Let’s find out if a wine cask finished bourbon from one of wine’s major players leads to something memorable in this Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon review.
Thank you to Savage and Cooke for providing these bottles. All opinions are still my own.
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Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon smell

There’s dark honey and cherry, dried apricot, toasted oak, cinnamon, dried prune, vanilla, graphite, and just a little bit of sulfur, leaves, and carrots (weird I know). I like how Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon smells, but it also feels oddly one-dimensional. It’s very sweet and fruity so the finish definitely comes through, but it feels like it’s covering up most of the other scents.
It’s very grape-y, which is good, but in a way that also takes away from the overall complexity.
After swirling, I get honey, cherry, dried apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, graphite, dried prune, vanilla, very light nuttiness, and carrot. Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon oddly smells more like it was finished in an apricot brandy casks rather than a cabernet sauvignon casks. In another weird statement, it has faint carrot cake vibes. Yeah…this is all subjective. The body is good though,
The sweetness is pleasant, but there’s not much pop or life to it. It feels covered up by a thin film that keeps most of the scents from escaping. I also can’t shake the thought that something isn’t quite right.
The best, but still inadequate, way I can describe it is that there’s a thick slab of wine finish on top of the bourbon so I can’t quite pull out the bourbon. You know what it is – the finish doesn’t feel well integrated with the bourbon.
It smells good but not great.
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Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with honey, cherry, baked red apple, toasted oak, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, hazelnut, fennel, and caraway seed. While Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon is still sweet and fruity for the first few seconds, more roasted oak, dry oak, and earthiness come out in the back to jolt it a little out of balance. The viscosity and body are solid though.
With “chewing” I taste honey, cherry, apricot, vanilla, red apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, caraway seed, and dark chocolate. This tastes better with “chewing”, with denser honey and cherry flavors that better offset the oakiness and dryness. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot of woodiness and dryness towards the back, which feels a bit unbalanced.
As woody as this is (quite woody), thankfully the wine finish fills out the rest with more sweetness and fruitiness to improve the balance, although it doesn’t fully fix it.
The finish starts sweet with some honey, cherry, and apple, but quickly gives way to lingering dry oak, toasted oak, earthy caraway seed, and cinnamon. After “chewing” it leaves honey, cherry, red apple, and vanilla that again quickly give way to a lot of lingering dry oak, although there’s more sweetness and fruitiness this time.
Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon has good flavors, but it’s all surface level and there’s not much pop so it doesn’t really get my attention. I don’t know if it’s the base bourbon or the wine finish, but they’re not adding up to something really good like it did for their rye. This isn’t bad at all, but it’s not great either.
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon Rating

Mid shelf+
I’m conflicted about Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon. On one hand, the cabernet sauvignon finish does a decent job adding sweetness and fruitiness to the experience, which makes it better. On the other hand, I just don’t find this to be that interesting, although I don’t find it to be unpleasant or boring either. I very much get the “ok…is there anything more?” type of thought. It pains me because I’m a huge fan of finished whiskeys.
I was on the fence between “Mid Shelf” and “Mid Shelf+”, but settled on the plus because the wine finish adds just enough character to overcome the unbalanced oakiness.
I think that a lot of it comes down to the base bourbon. As I always write, finishes enhance the base bourbon but cannot fix the flaws. If done right, a finished bourbon can be an impressive marriage of the various parts that feels unique and complete. With this bourbon, the finish definitely helps improve it by adding more sweetness and fruitiness, but at the same time it can’t fix the overdone woodiness and dryness that comes through the finish.
Especially in the scents, the finish does not feel well integrated into the bourbon. It feels dumped on top of the bourbon and covers up everything else. Who knows, the bourbon might still need more work and time to be ready for prime time and adequately incorporate a wine finish.
The “is it worth it?” part is a tougher question to answer. On one hand, there aren’t that many wine cask-finished bourbons for around $50-55. Cask finishes are expensive and they usually start around $60, so Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon is unique in some ways. I guess if you word it that way, it might be worth trying because it’s one of the less expensive ones.
But in comparison to the broader selection of bourbons in the $40-55 range, then I don’t think that it’s as compelling. I get it, distilling your own stuff plus cask finishing is expensive so the price reflects it, but me and whiskey buyers in general are always going to be doing that mental comparison to decide if it’s worth it.
For around $50, I recommend Copper and Kings Apple Brandy Finished Bourbon. It’s a Kentucky-only release, but worth getting if you can because it provides an interesting apple-forward bourbon experience. If you can, I wholeheartedly recommend that you spend a little more and get Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Bourbon for around $65. That is excellent stuff.
I think my point, critiques and all, is that Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Bourbon is pretty good right now, but it still needs some extra work to become an intriguing and worthwhile option that compels people to buy it.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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