I’m sure when we think of whiskey regions, New York isn’t the first place that comes to mind. But when we were recently in Westchester, NY for our bar takeover, we had the opportunity to work with the folks at Good Shepherd Distillery (a family owned distillery in Mamaroneck) and taste their latest creation: a single malt whiskey that’s 100% New York. And if their product is any indication, we’ve been sleeping on the NY whiskeys.
Good Shepherd Distillery opened in 2016 in Mamaroneck, New York, a city on the shore of the Long Island Sound just north of New York City. Owned and operated by a husband and wife team of Vincent and Carly Miata, they hoped to produce truly local spirits that incorporated New York ingredients.
Like many craft distillers, for the first few years they produced a vodka and other spirits that don’t require a significant aging process, all using 100% New York grown ingredients. But now they’re launching their first aged spirit, is a single malt whiskey that came on the market just a couple months ago.
The Sound Shore Single Malt Whiskey starts as a fermented mash that contains 100% New York grown malted barley and locally sourced water. From there it is distilled in batches using a column still and placed into charred oak barrels.
The spirit is aged for a period of one year, which is significantly shorter than most other distillers. They smartly use smaller barrels in their production process which allows a greater surface area for the spirit to interact with and promotes a faster aging. Ranger Creek in San Antonio (one of my other favorite small batch distillers) uses a similar process to great effect.
From there, the spirit is diluted to 40% ABV and bottled. That’s all fairly standard for a whiskey, but I do want to point out that they took the harder path and did things right. Instead of grabbing another distiller’s product and re-branding it as their own, like some other ‘local’ distilleries in the area, they actually took the time to make their own spirit and age it themselves. That alone is worthy of praise to me.
Honestly there’s not much fancy going on here, which is okay for a small batch locally distilled product.
The bottle itself is a familiar style, with a good thick base and a round body that flares out towards the shoulder. From there, it sports a sharp taper to the neck, which is long and skinny with a slight bulge in the center. The bottle is topped with a wood and cork stopper.
The label is pretty good as well, designed to look like a nautical map with the distillery’s location marked by the compass rose at the bottom. As someone who grew up learning to sail in this sound, I admit that part appealed greatly to my sense of nostalgia — and I imagine it will for other locals, as well.
The liquid is a beautiful amber color despite the short aging process, thanks to the smaller barrels and the charring. As soon as it hits the glass I can smell that it’s going to be good — my first impression was that of a caramel apple. Mixed in are some notes of vanilla, and I think I also get a bit of blackberry as well in the background.
A note of high praise here from my wife. Normally her only notes from sniffing a glass of my whiskeys is “it tastes like burning.” With this Sound Shore single malt whiskey, she told me that it’s probably the first time that a whiskey didn’t singe her nose. (From her, that’s praise.)
As soon as I take a sip, the spirit delivers on the promise of those smells. There’s definitely a caramel toffee flavor that comes out most strongly, but the more I sip it the more I wonder if there might be a little salting on that caramel as well.
Overall, the spirit has a good weight given the alcohol content, and is smooth throughout.
With the addition of an ice cube, the flavors start to change a little bit. Instead of being a heavy salted caramel flavor, the vanilla starts to come out a little more. The caramel is still there, it’s just taking a back seat.
This tastes more like a traditional single malt whiskey, with the vanilla and toffee flavors mixing in perfect harmony.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
If you follow, you know one of my favorite combinations is Tuthilltown’s Hudson Maple Cask Rye in an Old Fashioned (also, another NY distillery!) because the sweetness of the maple syrup flavors balances perfectly with the orange bitters. Sound Shore does the exact same thing, but with more of a caramel twist.
The sweet caramel toffee flavors balance almost perfectly with the orange bitters to the point where you probably don’t even need to muddle in a sugar cube. It’s great all on its own, and has made my short list for Old Fashioned bases.
As much as I hate to waste a good whiskey in a mixed drink like this, the spirit still comes through and balances out the cocktail. The ginger beer is strong but the salted caramel and vanilla are right there balancing it out and making for a deliciously sippable cup of awesomeness.
I love this. I think it’s a great product, it tastes fantastic, and I love that it’s a true local New York whiskey in every sense of the word. If there’s one thing I would change it would be to age it a little bit longer for a bit richer flavor, but that seems like an inevitability as they mature as a distillery anyway. If this is what they’ve done with one year, I can’t wait to taste what they’re putting out in a few years.
Sound Shore Single Malt Whiskey
Owner: Good Shepherd Distillery
Production: Mamaroneck, NY
Classification: Single Malt Whiskey
Grain bill: 100% NY malted barley
Aging: 2 years, small charred oak casks
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $46/ 375ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
The pricing for the spirit puts it roughly in line with the other great single malt whiskies of the world, and I think it meets if not exceeds expectations on that level.