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1512 Barbershop Rye Review

“White” or Unaged Whiskeys can be sort of a mixed bag. By that I mean they mostly suck. Harsh? Perhaps, but in my experience that’s just been the case. I’m from the “wood is king” school of thinking. Wood does something to distillate that is pure magic. What more can be said?

About 4 weeks back I received an email from John Henry, a CA resident and visitor of this site. John asked me if I’d heard about an up an coming distiller out of the San Francisco Bay Area called 1512 Barbershop. He’d had a bottle and was floored by it and wanted me to be on the lookout. Soon after that I received a sample for review.

Here’s the scoop. Salvatore Cimino owns an actual barbershop in San Francisco called 1512 Barbershop. During prohibition, many barbershops acted as fronts for bootlegged spirits and whiskey. It wasn’t uncommon during those times for such “whiskey” to be of the unaged variety. Salvatore is a throwback whiskey purist of sorts having grown up distilling whiskey in an an old-school manner; milling grain by hand and copper pot distillation over open flames. 1512 Barbershop makes the not so subtle reference to this being Salvatore Cimino first “public” release. I chuckled when I read that. Thoughts of my granfather setting a mason jar with a peach floating in it popped into my memory.

So, how does this unaged Rye Spirit/Whiskey taste?

1512 Barbershop Rye, 45.5% abv (91 Proof), $30 (375ML Bottle)

Color: Crystal Clear

Nose: Green apple, ripe pear, clean, fragrant rye grain, and a confectionary sweetness.

Palate: The palate is crisp and clean with dusty, peppery rye grain shining through from the onset. Rock candy and taffy sweetness anchor this one as does an ever present fruity quality.

Finish: The finish is all rye, mild pepper, and a scant, haunting licoricey note.

Overall: I have to say this one caught me way off guard. To date, there are two white whiskey/spirits that I would consider “outstanding”. One of them is Four Roses OBSK mashbill (OBSQ isn’t far behind). The other is this one. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, K&L Wines has some in stock.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.9 Superb/Outstanding)

16 Comments

  1. sku says:

    Interesting. I’d seen this on K&L’s site, but haven’t tried it yet. Thanks for the review.

    Have you tried the BT New Make, Low Gap or any of the High West white whiskeys and if so, how would you compare it?

  2. Steve, I think this is much better than the BT new make as well as the Try box series Rye from Heaven Hill. I have not tried the Low Gap. I’ve had the Silver Oat from HW and it’s good but doesn’t quite measure up to the 1512. I’m awaiting the new unaged rye and single malt from High West. When David Perkins was formuting the unaged rye recipe he spent considerable time trying to get it just right. That includes sampling about anything out there. In short, I think it has immense potential. We shall see – maybe a battle royale between the two.

  3. JWC says:

    never heard of this one until now. based on your review, i’m very tempted. my problem is getting a hold of one since i’m in texas. i think i’m supposed to go on a biz trip to the s.f. area in the fall. i’m going to have to try and stop by k&l wines (hope they have some left).

  4. JWC says:

    just thought of something: what would this juice be like after some time in a barrel? i don’t think that it’s a given that just bc the unaged is so good that the aged version will be better than the other aged whiskey. i’d be tempted to do the experiment but (1) $30 for essentially half a bottle = $$$$ and (2) i don’t have the patience to wait YEARS.

  5. JWC, apparently they are aging some as we speak, so we should find out soon enough. However I think you hit it on the head. There’s no guarantee it would be “better”. Certainly if you start with a great product you have a good shot at ending with one, but they may find it doesn’t interact as well with the wood. Also other distillates might have properties in them such as rougher flavor carrying congeners that when aged in great oak are rounded off and made better. There’s definitely science involved, but art as well.

    Apparently this product was also designed to be an unaged whiskey. Now maybe that’s just marketing mumbo jumbo, I’m not sure. Hopefully they keep it up because this first product is very intriguing.

  6. Interesting review, definitely something I want to look at. It seems there’s been a sort of revival of white whiskey, especially for craft distilleries. Definitely it’s cheaper and quicker than aging. I actually think there’s quite a few good ones out there. They don’t necessarily have all the good flavory goodness of a barrel-aged spirit, but I like that some of them are really good at showing off the character of their grains. Curious, have you had the white whiskey produced by death’s door?

  7. JWC says:

    @Jason, it’s great that they are aging some of the whiskey. more ryes coming on the market is a good thing. i am really looking forward to the jefferson rye that is coming out based on what i’ve heard from john hansell and others.

  8. AaronWF says:

    @JWC, that Jefferson rye can’t come out soon enough. My bottle of Whistle Pig is nearing its end, and while I will really miss it when it’s gone, I’m not about to shell out another $70 for it.

    @Jason, interesting subject matter here. I can’t say I’ve ever quite ‘enjoyed’ a grappa I’ve tried. I have found some to be interesting, but not quite pleasurable. I’ve tried a white dog here or there, and again found mostly novelty. It’s certainly educational to taste an un-aged distillate, but is this something that could fill an occasion the way a barreled rye could, or is it simply something palatable that could teach a palate to understand an aged product a little more?

  9. Aaron, I’ve had those white or unaged whiskeys that have me going, “wow that’s pretty cool – interesting.” This to me was not one of those experiences. It’s a flavorsome and great tasting pour.

  10. Ian, I have had Death’s Door and I would consider it decent stuff. To be fair I’ve had it a few times in settings that didn’t allow me to really dig in with it.

  11. David D says:

    Good news for all of you. JWC – this will be in stock full time so don’t worry about K&L selling out before you get here. Also, I’ve been in talks with them about purchasing a barrel of some aged juice later this year. Stay tuned!

  12. Sounds great David. Should be interesting to try their aged stuff.

  13. CAE says:

    Jason,

    Shame you live in a no mail order state- the Charbay Doubled & Twisted is a very much worth a try. I took a flyer on it – $55 + shipping for a liter turned out to be a deal. It also gives you an idea what their aged offerings taste like without dropping $300 large.

  14. CAE, i got a sample of each of those in the last month. I was blown away by both. One of the best whiskeys I have tried this year. The D&T was fantastic also.

  15. Alec says:

    This is the best micro whisky ive had yet! The other two micro ryes i have had (made in iowa) were almost undrinkable. Ill have to try the ones made by high west, st george, and anchor next

  16. Dean E says:

    Jason, thanks for the review! FYI – K& L appears to currently be out of stock. Web searching yielded a couple of other places with some in stock. However, I really struggle with paying aged-whiskey prices for white dog. And it begs the question of how much they will age the product and what price point we’ll see on that.

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