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Broken Barrel California Oak Whiskey Review

In American Whiskey Reviews by Matt SelfLeave a Comment


California Oak was created as a bourbon that could seamlessly bring the wine drinker into the world of whiskey. This is a step into our world and a every day sipping whiskey made to be drank neat, and often.Seth Benhaim, Founder and Barrel Breaker
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Broken Barrel California Oak Whiskey


  • DISTILLER: Undisclosed; Likely O.Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro, KY
  • PRODUCER: Broken Barrel Whiskey Company
  • MASH BILL: 70% Corn | 21% Rye | 9% Malted Barley
  • Fermentation: Standard
  • Oak Bill: 80% California Central Coast Cabernet Cask Staves | 20% New French Oak
  • AGE: More than one year
  • YEAR: 2020
  • PROOF: 88 Proof (44% ABV)
  • MSRP: $32.99
  • BUY ONLINE: Caskers.com

NOSE: Bright Red Fruit  | Sweet Corn  |  Bubble Gum

TASTE: CHERRY  |  Toasted Almond  |  Faint Cinnamon

FINISH: Medium alcohol burn with an oak chaser.

SHARE WITH: Non-bourbon drinkers who are looking for a non-traditional whiskey profile.

WORTH THE PRICE: At $33 MSRP, it is less expensive than many craft whiskey products.  Perhaps a little pricey for what it is, but not overly so.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: I don’t love it enough to buy a bottle for my home bar, but I don’t hate it enough to call it a bust.  A wine drinker at a bourbon bar might find this to be a nice wine alternative.

OVERALL: On the initial nose, I would have assumed this was a pour of Brenne Whisky.  Those French staves must be the culprit on the bubblegum nose on both products.  On the initial palate, I would have assumed this was Traverse City American Cherry Whiskey. I was surprised that the cabernet stave influence managed to tame the youth of the underlying product to an enjoyable experience.

So, the blenders in California have managed to take a very young Kentucky product and mimic other established products in nose and taste.  The palate is much greener and hotter than the Traverse City product but in the same ballpark, so if you’re a fan of that offering, you may like this slightly less expensive product from Broken Barrel.  For my palate, the youth of the underlying Kentucky whiskey is enough for me to pass on this in a liquor store.  A 4 to 6-year product would be much more interesting to me as a bourbon drinker but would likely bring double the price in the whiskey aisle.

On principal, I did not want to like this product.  The website calls the sourced whiskey a “Straight, Bourbon whiskey” but we all know a one-year product is anything but straight.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  I just can’t stress the importance of transparency and accuracy in label and marketing descriptions in the whiskey world.  This isn’t a Presidential press conference, so they can’t both be incorrect.  I would assume the label is correct that this is a one year whiskey and the website is wrong.  The TTB usually insists on accuracy.

In any case, this whiskey won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, so the youth obviously wasn’t as much of a concern for the vodka experts tasting this year’s entries.  Check it out if you’re inclined.

Learn more about Matt’s whiskey preferences and check out more of his reviews…


Disclaimer: Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Raised in the great state of Tennessee, Matt has a hard time admitting the native spirit of the Bluegrass neighbor to the north captured his obsession (& most of his wallet). Having progressed through the red solo cup days to a passion for a barrel-proof wheated bourbon, neat, Matt is always on the hunt for the next bottle. When he is not scouting or sipping bourbon, Matt spends time with his wife and four children. When he needs money for the next trip to Bardstown, Matt manages a wealth management firm. He always buys bourbon to drink and believes nothing should come between friends except two rocks glasses and a three-finger pour.
Read Matt's full profile.

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Matt Self

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Raised in the great state of Tennessee, Matt has a hard time admitting the native spirit of the Bluegrass neighbor to the north captured his obsession (& most of his wallet). Having progressed through the red solo cup days to a passion for a barrel-proof wheated bourbon, neat, Matt is always on the hunt for the next bottle. When he is not scouting or sipping bourbon, Matt spends time with his wife and four children. When he needs money for the next trip to Bardstown, Matt manages a wealth management firm. He always buys bourbon to drink and believes nothing should come between friends except two rocks glasses and a three-finger pour. Read Matt's full profile.