The humble homemade whiskey blend or infinity bottle are nothing new to whiskey enthusiasts. In fact, I’d say if left to drink whiskey for long enough every whiskey drinker will eventually want to try their hand at blending their own bottles of whiskey together with the hopes of creating something special. With whiskey consumption also booming it’s no surprise that the concept has become quite popular again in recent times. Part of the appeal is creating blends of whiskies not just from different distilleries but also different countries-for example, what’s stopping you from adding some Teeling’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey to some Woodford Reserve Bourbon in an empty bottle? Nothing at all! Unfortunately, the results of this kind of blending are usually more miss than hit. Blending is an art in itself and there’s nothing more humbling than trying it for yourself. However, what if your homemade blend turned out to be something special? What then?
In 2017 an article published on the website of online magazine PUNCH claimed the ‘hottest bottle of bourbon at the moment’ as a homemade blend named ‘California Gold’. Blended by a gentleman under the pseudonym of Danny Strongwater, this blend has since become a personal unicorn for many bourbon drinkers that find themselves intrigued by the mystery surrounding it along with the reviews coming from people in the online bourbon community. You can of course buy this blend (if you know the right people) but any tangible details on it are scant and like other homemade blends such as Poor Man’s Pappy, buyers are taking a leap of faith and hoping that they will be rewarded for this. From the article the details that have emerged say that it’s a blend of commercially available bourbons, it’s made in tiny batches of a few bottles at a time, it’s a blend of barrel-proof bourbons from multiple distilleries, and it’s harder to get a hold of than a ghost’s fart. With some digging I’ve learned the base bourbon is Stagg Jr. from Buffalo Trace, but that knowledge is similar to knowing salt is one of the 11 herbs and spices in KFC’s secret recipe – not much help. Further digging (and pestering) has revealed that the blend only uses 5 whiskies, but again this doesn’t help much. The only thing to do is drink some and see if it’s worth the hype and the crisp $100 a 375ml bottle will set you back.
Name: California Gold
Proof: Not disclosed
Type: Not disclosed
Mashbill: Not disclosed
Producer: Danny Strongwater
Nose: The nose opens bold and complex with ripe plums, deep caramel, baking spices, black pepper, a touch of rye grain, smoky toasted oak and a kick of alcohol burn.
Palate: The palate is viscous and opens with sweet ripe plums and peppery earthy rye followed by a rush of thick sweet brown sugar syrup and a dash of spicy tannic oak.
Finish: The finish is long with brown sugar, a wave of spice, herbaceous rye, and an aftertaste of caramel and tannic oak.
This is probably one of the most interesting bourbons that I’ve ever come across. Initially you can tell that there’s Stagg Jr. from those delicious Buffalo Trace flavours that emerge. Then, however, it takes a turn into unfamiliar territory as a soft and sweet brown sugar syrup note emerges to tame the heat and spice to give you a delicious and smooth bourbon. I’ve never tasted anything that has the same smooth and sweet brown sugar note and it really sets this aside as one of the most flavourful yet smooth bourbons I’ve had the pleasure to taste. Combined with the complexity this gives a whiskey you could probably chew all day long.
I have to say I’m quite impressed with this blend. For a blend it is excellent and the flavours really do come together to give you an impressive experience. Having tried my hand at blending many times in the past I don’t know how Strongwater managed to create such a viscous, smooth, and delicious blend, but if he’s reading this, my hat goes off to you. With regards to how to get a bottle, this bottle took me over a year to source and the whole buying was as mysterious as you would expect. Since I’ve shown this bottle on social media many people have approached me asking how they can go about obtaining a bottle but unfortunately I can’t help any of them because my source was a proxy.
Try or Buy?
For me this bottle signifies almost a year of patience and sharing my love of bourbon with the right people in the online bourbon community until one day I got the message asking me if I want a bottle of this. My immediate answer was ‘YES, HELL YES!, but not wanting to seem over eager I gave him a simple ‘Sure!’ and the rest is history. If you can find this for anything close to or below $100 I’d definitely pick it up as it’s an amazing bourbon. However, I have heard of these going for as much as $240 per bottle and I my opinion it’s not worth that high price.