Savage and Cooke Rye Review [In Depth]

Savage and Cooke Rye

Alex author
Founder, writer
savage and cooke rye header

Savage and Cooke Rye Details

Distillery: Savage and Cooke

Type & Region: Rye, California, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: 51% Rye, 45% Corn, 4% Malted Barley

Aged: At least 3 years

Color: 1.5/2.0 on the color scale (auburn, polished mahogany)

Price: $45-55

From the company website:

Layered and complex, Dave Phinney’s house Rye. Intriguing and inviting right from the start. Citrus, tropical and floral. notes evolve to white pepper and toasty vanilla on the palate. Rich, layered and complete.

Savage and Cooke Rye overview

Savage and Cooke was founded by Dave Phinney, who apparently is a well known figure in wine. I clearly am not that much of a wine person because I had no idea who he was until now. 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.
He’s apparently a big enough deal and success that he apparently sold The Prisoner brand and Orin Swift Cellars for hundreds of millions of dollars. With some of those funds, he dove into whiskey, founding Savage and Cooke in 2016, marrying his extensive wine experience with American whiskey. He must be a very busy man.
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. Within the confines of the distillery grounds, they produce a range of whiskeys, including this rye whiskey finished in grenache barrels.
Savage and Cooke did a thorough job describing how this whiskey was made, so I’ll show you what’s on the website. It’s an interesting read.
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. Rye makes up the bulk of the recipe, followed by corn 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 Rye 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 Rye is transferred to Dave Phinney’s Grenache 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.
**End of the company’s description**
The summary is that Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Rye is truly made by them. They control every part of how this was made…this is their take on rye whiskey. There is no sourcing here, this is all about the team at Savage and Cooke.
I enjoy all sorts of finished ryes, so let’s find out if I like this one too in this Savage and Cooke Cask Finish Rye review.
Thank you to Savage and Cooke for providing this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
savage and cooke rye back

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Savage and Cooke Rye smell

The scents are very wine-y and sweet up front with dense honey, licorice, dried raisins, starfruit, candied pineapple, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, peach, and a little dill and caraway seed. No kidding, I really like how Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Rye smells. There’s dense sweetness, fruitiness, and herbalness that show off how the rye and wine get together well.
It has a nearly syrupy sweet honey and green raisin thing going on, which is an interesting twist (in a good way) that makes it feel like it was finished for 10+ months instead of two months. This is a bit of a contradiction, but this also has a long-aged fino sherry vibe. I know grenache is a red grape, but the combination of the rye and red wine meld into a darker and richer white wine…weird I know.
That said, it’s not so complex and layered, but it’s nonetheless still a round and rich rye.
After swirling and rest, I smell thick honey, licorice, and cherry followed by fennel, candied pineapple, green raisin, and starfruit, then oak, clove, cranberry, cinnamon, and caraway seed. Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Rye is a bit more sweet and fruity now, and less earthy.
The scents are big and round, although they don’t have much in the way of complexity, which more or less sounds like a promising younger rye with a lot of headroom to grow. A lot of the boldness probably comes from the strong wine finish, which I enjoy, but I know others may not.
This may not make sense, but this has a sauternes (French dessert wine) vibe, with that dense honey and green grape sweetness, although this is finished in red wine.
For a lack of a better description, it smells great.
savage and cooke rye front

Savage and Cooke Rye taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with honey, green raisins, licorice, fennel, candied pineapple, starfruit, roasted oak, cinnamon, dill, vanilla, clove, and some lightly earthy and drying caraway seed pumpernickel, and dried cranberries. There’s a lot of honey and green raisin sweetness up front with drying roasted oak, earthiness, and spice in the back.
Even though grenache is a red grape, the red wine flavors aren’t that obvious. It’s more like a dense yet dark green grape, although maybe that’s how the rye whiskey and red wine interact. The red wine grapeiness is usually more obvious in bourbon.
With hard “chewing”, I taste dense honey, slightly tart cherry, candied pineapple, licorice, starfruit, green raisins, roasted oak, clove, cinnamon, cranberry, and some earthiness. Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Rye is very sweet and very wine-y with moderate herbalness and some dryness and earthiness throughout.
The finish has honey, dense licorice, green raisins, candied pineapple, starfruit, roasted oak, caraway seed, clove, cinnamon. It’s a bit more dry and earthy on the finish. The aftertaste is similar after “chewing”, although it’s a bit more sweet, fruity, and herbal, and less dry and earthy this time. It’s a pleasant improvement.
The wine finish feels very strong, which again I personally enjoy, although I don’t know if I’d say that it’s a balanced experience that lets the rye shine and the wine finish accent it. It’s more like the wine is bathed all over the rye.
Savage and Cooke Rye tastes really nice with good richness and viscosity, although it’s not that layered or complex yet.
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 Rye Rating

Mid shelf+
I’m relieved to find that Savage and Cooke Cask Finished Rye Whiskey is well done. After having their unpleasant American Whiskey, I really hoped that I wouldn’t have to shit on them again. I don’t like doing that, but I will if it’s warranted. Thankfully, I don’t because I’m happy with this.
The overall experience is quite pleasant. It’s awash with sweet honey, cherries, and green raisins (didn’t expect that from red wine) that make me think that the wine finish is stronger here. For better or worse (mostly better), it’s hard to exactly separate what comes from the rye vs the grenache.
I mention that because even though only parts of the blend are finished for 2 months, the barrels seem to have had a huge effect on the end result. Honestly, that could be just as much the rye as it is the wine. Either way, they work together well.
The density is surprising because other finished whiskeys, usually entirely finished in casks, have less finish influence. Then again, these grenache casks could still be quite wet (meaning have a lot of residual wine) that lends extra character. Or again, the rye whiskey could just be that good on its own already.
In my experience, rye whiskey tends to feel more developed more quickly than bourbon or any other type of american whiskey at the same age. This is purely my guess based on what I’ve tasted, but it probably has something to do with rye grain inherently having more character that appears more quickly with aging.
Either way, the 3 year old rye isn’t holding back this whiskey. Sure, it stills feels young in the sense that it’s still doesn’t have much in the way of nuance and complexity, but it seems to already have enjoyable herbalness, fruitiness, and tropicalness that I associate with good rye whiskey. The additional layers will come with time, but it’s already clear that Savage and Cooke is producing some great rye whiskey.
Savage and Cooke Finished Rye is already in a tasty place, and I hope that it gets better with time as the whiskey gets older.If you like finished rye whiskeys such as Sagamore Spirit’s finished ryes, then I think you’ll enjoy this a lot too.
Great job Savage and Cook, do more or this and less of the other stuff…or bring more of this to the other things that aren’t as good.
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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