Sunshine Reserve American Whiskey Review

he notes from the distiller tell us that they bake the barrel staves instead of charring. That explains the Malty flavor and nose. The 4 Grain Mash bill primarily made of Oats also adds a fair amount of sweetness. It was a little too sweet for my taste and underproof.

Sunshine Reserve American Whiskey Review Header


  • DISTILLER: Manhattan Moonshine Company
  • MASH BILL: 4 grain mash bill built around oats, the remaining 3 grains are rye, spelt, and malted barley
  • AGE: At least 1 day – per the whiskey’s label (distiller put the legally required minimum age statement as the whiskey less than 4 years old and they don’t believe the age statement is meaningful)
  • YEAR: 2017
  • PROOF: 85 (42.5% ABV)
  • MSRP: $50.00


NOSE: Malt | Chocolate | Smoke | Vanilla

TASTE: Green Apple | Malted Barley | Cinnamon | Oatmeal

FINISH: Short without much depth.

SHARE WITH: Cocktail fans and folks that want to support craft distilling. I wouldn’t share with hardcore bourbon fans.

WORTH THE PRICE: I wouldn’t call this a bad whiskey, but $50 is certainly a stretch. It makes a good Manhattan but is too underproof and thin for a standalone pour. There are plenty of brands including craft distillers making young whiskey for a lot less money. The bottle is designed as a decanter and will work well for that.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: I won’t be reaching for this again for a pour of neat whiskey, but I will gladly mix in a cocktail. Can’t call that a bust since I can see this being a nice addition for well-crafted cocktail enthusiast’s, but I would recommend trying at a bar first.

OVERALL: The notes from the distiller tell us that they bake the barrel staves instead of charring. That explains the Malty flavor and nose. The 4 Grain Mash bill primarily made of Oats also adds a fair amount of sweetness. It was a little too sweet for my taste and underproof. It benefitted from air time in the glass (20-30 minutes) but not enough to cover the Green Apple taste I always get with young whiskey.

I appreciate the variety of flavors and styles being created in the craft distillery explosion. Sunshine Reserve is well made so I would be curious to try it with some additional aging time. It lacked the depth I prefer, and I think that comes with patience in the barrel.


Crafted in upstate New York, Sunshine Reserve combines the wonderful flavors of Bourbon with the long, smooth finish of an Irish Whisky.  This means it has a complexity and boldness that Whiskey connoisseurs love and a smooth, soft finish that is perfect for converting new drinkers.


Aged Primarily with Baked Oak
We age Sunshine Reserve with oak that is baked in a convection oven instead of using oak charred by direct flame. Using baked oak gives it lighter, brighter vanilla flavors like marzipan or crème-brûlée and reduces the heavy oak and smoke flavors that charred oak imparts on typical American Whiskeys.

This makes sense if you think about the flavors that come from different levels of toast in a typical barrel.  In typical Whiskeys, the lighter toast layers that can be found deeper in the wood of a typical charred barrel are the layers that provide the lighter and brighter vanilla flavors, but it takes a long time for the aging Whiskey to soak deep enough into the barrel and as a result, the Whiskey is influenced more by the heavier toast layers of the barrel that are closer to the interior of the barrel.

By baking our oak instead, Sunshine Reserve is able to draw those amazing flavors that are typically found deep in the wood of charred barrels, but without being overshadowed by the flavors of the heavier toast layers of the barrel.  The result of this is that these wonderful light vanilla and caramel variations can shine through.

Aged at a Lower Proof
Sunshine Reserve is aged at a lower proof than almost any other American Whiskey on the market (around 110 proof), which gives it a softer, sweeter flavor that has less spice and dark wood to it than other Whiskeys that are aged at a higher proof.

As you know, Whiskey typically comes off of the still at a very high proof and must be slightly diluted with pure water down to Cask Strength, the strength at which a Whiskey enters the barrel for aging.  Because alcohol and water extract different compounds from the oak barrels that they are stored in, the ratio of alcohol to water (i.e. the proof or ABV) of a Whiskey when it enters the barrel has a huge impact on the flavor of the final aged Whiskey.

While the compounds that water extracts from Oak tend to be sweeter and more sugary, the compounds that alcohol extracts tend to be spicier.  This means that the lower the proof of the Whiskey during aging (i.e. the higher the ratio of water to alcohol), the sweeter and less spicy the Whiskey will be.

Because Sunshine Reserve is barrel aged at a lower proof than almost all of the other Whiskeys on the market, it is able to develop a slightly sweeter and less spicy profile than most other Whiskeys, which helps give it its unique softness and smoothness.

Unique, Four Grain Mashbill
Sunshine Reserve’s unique recipe is built around Oats, which give the Whiskey its signature floral softness. The remaining 3 grains, Rye, Spelt, and Malted Barley, provide the Whiskey with mild cinnamon spice and maltiness that balance the Oats perfectly and create its wonderful complexity.

All of these grains are sourced through partnerships with small local farms, which supports the local economy and also guarantees that the grains come from exactly the same place every year, meaning that Sunshine Reserve made 5 years from now will taste just as amazing as it does today.

Our Bottle is a Decanter:
Sunshine Reserve’s bottle has been made specially so that after a consumer finishes the Whiskey, the label strips off cleanly with hot water so that it can be used as a decanter.  At the end of the day, people who love Whiskey would rather spend their money on Whiskey than on accessories for it, so we wanted to provide a free decanter and save them the trouble.

Our Mission:
As a lifelong lover of Whiskey, our founder, Will Kehler wanted to create a Whiskey that does two things:

  • Gives experienced Whiskey drinkers something truly new and special to enjoy.  Not something gimmicky or something with artificial flavors, but something that highlights different wonderful flavors that are overshadowed in other Whiskeys, such as raisin or marzipan.  Sunshine Reserve gives even the most veteran Whiskey connoisseurs something familiar, but unlike anything they have ever had before.
  • Has such a soft, smooth finish that it can be an easy gateway into Whiskey for non-Whiskey drinkers.  Let’s face it, every Whiskey drinker has someone that they want to introduce to Whiskey.  If we can help them to convert new members to our illustrious world of Whiskey-drinkers, we will consider it a job well-done!

Ultimately, we love Whiskey and we are proud to share ours with you.

Disclaimer: Manhattan Moonshine Company 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.