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CALI Sipping Whiskey Review

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CALI is a rugged yet sophisticated spirit with subtle warm spice undertones.CALI Distillery

CALI Sipping Whiskey

  • DISTILLER: CALI Distillery created the mash bill, chose the botanicals and controls the aging and other processes but contracts with another small distillery for the distillate.
  • MASH BILL: “…a bit more than 20% rye, and under 80% corn.”
  • AGE: Under 2 years old – distiller doesn’t really consider this an aged whiskey at this point
  • YEAR: 2016
  • PROOF: 85 (42.5% ABV)
  • MSRP: $32 to $36
NOSE: Nutmeg  |  Sweet Apple  |  Pumpkin

TASTE: Vanilla  |  Cloves  |  Molasses

FINISH: Long with building cinnamon. It doesn’t so much burn as warm the throat.

SHARE WITH: When you call something “California sipping whiskey,” I imagine coastal sunsets, but when I taste this I think skiing with a flask. So share with someone on the ski lift. (Please ski responsibly.)

WORTH THE PRICE: The price is about average for a product from a newer distillery, though I’d be more likely to buy it if it was $5 cheaper.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: If a sweet spiced whiskey appeals to you, then I’d say get a bottle.

OVERALL: It’s not straight whiskey and how you feel about that will likely determine whether this product is for you. This is a casual sipper, not something you’re bringing to your local bourbon society meeting. And that’s fine. I think for what it is, CALI California Sipping Whiskey is very tasty.

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

CALI is a unique California twist on a classic sipping whiskey. We are shooting for a spirit smoother than a frontier rye, but more complex and flavorful than a traditional Kentucky bourbon. We want CALI to be something that a real whiskey lover will be happy share with his friends, even his non-whiskey friends. If he wants to pour a glass to sip while reading a good book or laughing with friends while playing a board game – even better. We want a spirit that is a pleasure to drink. CALI is a whiskey with a California vibe: Come on over, relax, have a drink, check out the sunset.

Flavor is all about aroma, and running a distillery is really about how to use raw high proof alcohol to pull the aromas and flavors out of cool stuff. The flavors of CALI arise organically from the interaction of the rich corn mash bourbon, and spicy rye, mellowed by clean oak and then finished with our own signature blends of herbs, spices. and botanicals.

CALI starts with pure whiskey front notes and ends with subtle, complex, slightly sweet spice notes.

CALI California Sipping Whiskey, is a small batch spirit. That means we only make a few barrels at a time, so it can be hard to find. It’s a limited edition run, but we are hoping that you enjoy it before it’s gone.

CALI is produced in our own spacious and airy distillery a few miles from the beaches of Southern California in Gardena California.


NOSE: Aromas of baked pumpkin bread, orange peel, and baked apples waft from the glass, so fresh and fragrant.

PALATE: Nutmeg, allspice, molasses and dark bread are an all-star cast on the palate, making for a truly distinctive whiskey.

FINISH: It warms the mouth as well as any hot toddy, the cinnamon notes increasingly sweet to the finish.

NOSE: Pumpkin Bread  |  Cinnamon  | Allspice  |  Honey  |  Orange

TASTE: Honey  |  Cinnamon  | Nutmeg

FINISH: Honey sweetness followed by lingering cinnamon that keeps it from becoming cloyingly sweet.

SHARE WITH: This is clearly a departure from the bourbon and whiskeys I drink most of the time. But as a whiskey finished with spices (technically not a flavored whiskey), it’s something you could share easily with non-whiskey drinkers looking for something sweeter and approachable after dinner or with a fall-themed dessert.

WORTH THE PRICE: Regular whiskey drinkers will get a lot of mileage out of a bottle since they won’t drink it all at once. It’s something you’ll put in your home bar and drink on a few occasions or when non-whiskey drinking friends come over. Based on that it’s worth the price unless you hate all whiskeys that have flavors other than came out of the barrel.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Let me repeat – If you dislike whiskey that has additional flavors, do not buy a bottle of this. If you’re a bit more open minded and believe there are times and a place for whiskey with additional flavors, you should check into getting a bottle for your home bar.

OVERALL: What I like about CALI Sipping Whiskey is that it’s not pretending to be anything other than what it is – an unaged, contracted distilled whiskey with a custom blend of botanicals. And while I typically don’t enjoy extra flavors in my whiskey, I’m big enough to admit that I did like this one. It was sweet but not overly sweet. You can easily drink it neat but either adding an ice cube to your glass or chilling the whiskey in advance of drinking, is even better. I can honestly say I’m looking forward to trying it again this fall when my house is filled with pumpkin bread, pie, and other fall weather desserts.

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

Disclaimer: CALI Distillery 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
Thomas Fondano

Thomas Fondano

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Thomas Fondano has been drinking bourbon and trying every bottling he can get his hands on since last century. While he enjoys all types of whiskeys, bourbon remains his go-to whenever he says, “I need a drink.” He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he makes cocktails every day at 5pm. Read Thomas' full profile.

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