Jungle Primary

2 oz CALI Whiskey [CALI Distillery]
.5 oz Amaro Nonino
.5 oz House Blackberry Cinnamon Shrub

Stir with ice, strain into an ice filled rocks glass.  Garnish with blackberries.


A few weeks ago the people behind Sukkah Hill Spirits sent me some of their latest venture, a foray into the whiskey world.  They dubbed their CALI Whiskey as a “California twist on the classic American sipping whiskey.”    Being card carrying member of the brown spirits fan club, I couldn’t wait to crack it open.

As soon as I took a whiff, I could tell this was going to be a bit of a different beast.  The cinnamon is strong with this one, as well as other warm spices – cloves, allspice, even a little nutmeg.  Underneath it all is a foundation of familir whiskey aromas of bready toffee, wood char, and malts.  The theme continues on the sip, again led by by the cinnamon, but this time the caramel whiskey notes come quicker.  The mash bill is corn and rye, so once the sweetness subsides you get a nice spicy kick on the end.  Sipping it neat was certainly enjoyable enough, but I was interested to see what it could do in a full on cocktail.

As it happens, I just made a blackberry cinnamon shrub which felt like a natural partner.  The rich berry flavors would pair well with all the warm baking spices, and the extra cinnamon adds even more kick.  Since there was already plenty of sweetness going on, I rounded out the drink with Amaro Nonino.  Its caramel undertones are a perfect whiskey wingman (hello Paper Plane), and it has enough bitterness to cut through everything else.

Once the Jungle Primary (so named after CA’s odd primary election system) came together in the glass, the botanicals in the Amaro combined with the aforementioned spices to add some serious depth on the nose.  The sip started again with cinnamon, but this time yielded to the shrub, as the blackberries worked their way though the zing of vinegar.  The Amaro did its job, keeping everything from veering into overly sweet dessert drink world.  The Cali whiskey took over on the finish, but in its more classic form of malty goodness you get in most whiskies.

I’m so excited to play around with the Cali whiskey some more.  It feels like its personality can change depending on which bottles you surround it with.  I’ll see what other faces I can get it to show.

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