A s I search for a name for my new column, I think it’s quite appropriate to have my first review be about a new spirit, TazaRay Red – an infant in the market trying to make its mark in a saturated party of older and street savvy distilled veterans.
I was drawn to review this one first, because, like the new girl at the soirée, this 90 proof sunflower and corn based brew is aged in red wine barrels and makes its mark as the first true “Gluten-Free” spirit. And let’s face it, if you are going to crash the boy’s club, you put on your best lipstick, have kick ass shoes and waltz in with style that no one’s ever seen before.
Initial fragrance is that of sunflowers and toasted caramel. It has a sweet smell, but picks up the red wine flavor on the first sip. Initially, it had a sharp finish and a nutty biting aftertaste. On the second sip, it opened up at the end and began to have that warm finish you would expect from a young bourbon.
After adding a few ice chips, this puppy mellows out with a much longer finish. I felt like the flavor was a little lost with the icy addition, but becomes more interesting at the end with more bite.
TazaRay is the creation of the Dalton Distillery, located in the foothills of North Georgia. The name is derived from their Native American roots and while technically called a “spirit” since sunflowers aren’t considered a grain by those that regulate such things – it certainly walks like a whiskey and talks like a whiskey.
We met the folks from Dalton at the Chateau Elan Wine Festival back in November. What a great bunch of folks. 74-year-old Raymond Butler, the inspiration of sunflower spirits was there. With bib-overalls and wavy beard, he looks straight out of central casting as a moonshiner. You can read a bit of his story at their website.
So from one new girl at the party to the other, I say cheers to TazaRay Red. I commend the effort to be different and think the focus on the gluten-free market is brilliant, and if you are one of the 10% of the population that is affected, this is the dare I say, whiskey for you. It should be very interesting to continue to taste this budding new spirit as it ages and matures and I expect, like fine wine and fine women, it will continue to refine in its makeup.
“WHISKEY. IT MAY NOT BE THE ANSWER, BUT IT WILL HELP YOU FORGET THE QUESTION.” -RAYMOND BUTLER