Sonora Gold

The last blog post I wrote (for this site, at least) was about five months ago. So the irony isn’t lost on me that this first review in ages isn’t even about a whisky.  Or even a whiskey.

Despite the fact that Sonora Gold from the Three Wells Distillery is sometimes referred to as Prickly Pear Whiskey, the distillers themselves make the point on their website that, as the spirit hasn’t been made from grain, it can’t officially be called a whiskey. And yes, you’ve guessed it; the clue’s in the name. It’s a spirit made from the prickly pear cactus fruit.

The Three Wells Distillery is located in Tucson, Arizona and, to be honest, I’d never heard of it before I was kindly given this sample by Eddie and Jean aka The Drinking Life of Her and Him. The fruit is harvested from the surrounding Sonoran desert and the Sonora Gold is aged for at least a year in American oak – so this is possibly where the comparison to whiskey comes from.

Sonora is made from 51% prickly pear cactus fruit and 49% cane sugar making it a new type of spirit. The distillery was the first to produce such a spirit and, as such, it didn’t have its own category.  So I guess the need was also there for people to call the spirit something (hence Prickly Pear Whiskey).

What does it taste like? That’s the all important question…

Sonora Gold – NAS – 55.45% abv

Nose: initial hit of cucumber, which thankfully doesn’t last long. For those of you who don’t know, I actually can’t stand the smell or taste of cucumber! There are huge notes of spearmint with subtle hints of lemongrass with an underlying earthiness.

Palate: thankfully no cucumber but mostly spearmint without much else making an appearance. There’s a slight hint of strawberry (those foam strawberry sweets) with a huge spice kick in the middle which subsides rapidly.

With a few drops of water, this changes dramatically; most notably in the texture. With just a few drops, it develops a real creaminess that is lovely. On the nose, the mint is less prominent, lemon notes emerge but are more like fresh lemon and there’s something reminiscent of freshly cut grass. The water weakens the spice so that other flavours can emerge: fresh orange juice, red apple, toffee apple and strawberry.

I wasn’t expecting it to change this much with a few drops of water. It went from average, without too much going on, to something way more complex. This was really enjoyable, especially on a warm summer’s evening. Moreover, it’s always great to try something just that bit different and new.

Sonora Gold doesn’t appear to be available outwith the US. However,  if you happen to live in or visit one of the states where it’s available, it retails for around $100.

Thanks also to Eddie for the photos!

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