In a nutshell: This small-batch bourbon is made using cherrywood smoked barley, giving the bottle a sweet and light profile. Citrus fruits meet roasted peanuts and peppery rye in this complex expression from California.

The brand: California is predominantly wine country. Sonoma County sits just west of the famed Napa County and is no stranger to vineyards – as of 2021, there's thought to be over 425 wineries in the county. There's also a bustling beer scene, with the world-famous Lagunitas distillery situated in Petaluma.

Despite the wineries, there's still room for some top-notch distilleries. In 2010, Adam Spiegel founded Sonoma Distilling Company after assisting a friend at a distillery in Santa Rosa and discovering a passion for making spirits. His focus was – and is – on producing handcrafted small-batch whiskies.

Spiegel began with rye, his personal favourite. Aiming to bottle the taste of rye bread, he began making whiskies with both malted and unmalted rye. Then, he moved to bourbon, determined to prove that good bourbon could be made anywhere. As a result, Spiegel named his first bottles of bourbon West of Kentucky 1, 2 and 3.

The bourbon: The Sonoma cherrywood smoked bourbon is made using cherrywood smoked barley. Smoking with cherrywood is common in barbecuing, as the wood imparts sweet and light flavours. Cherrywood smoked barley makes up 13 per cent of the mash bill for this bottle, the remainder being 67 per cent corn and 20 per cent rye.

The cherrywood makes its presence known on the nose, with almost tangy ruby fruits at the fore, mellowed by smooth vanilla. The palate is warm, dry and full-bodied, with roasted peanuts and candied citrus wrapped in a ball of peppery rye. The finish is long, with nutmeg and a hint of clove dominating along with further punches of rye.

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