Re:Find Barrel Finished Vodka

Yes, I am predominantly a wine girl (in case you couldn’t tell). But when in the mood for a cocktail, vodka is my go-to hard liquor of choice. To be honest, I’m not as well-versed in vodkas as I am with wines. I only recently discovered Hangar 1 when it was on sale, and with its smooth texture and almost fruity finish, it quickly became my new favorite. And then I realized why — Hangar 1 distills a combination of grapes and grain, so the vodka has a wine-like quality about it. But when Monica Villicana, Re:Find proprietor and wife to chief distiller and co-proprietor Alex Villicana, sent me a bottle of their barrel aged finished vodka, I knew I was about to find my new, new favorite.


About the Product: Alex and Monica Villicana are primarily winemakers themselves. They own and operate a modest vineyard (13 acres) and small-lot production winery (just around 2000 cases a year). So what are winemakers doing making vodka?

In an effort to promote sustainability in the thriving wine region of Paso Robles, the Villicana’s have found a way to utilize what other winemakers may discard as run-off or waste — the initial bleed of free-run juices from red wine grapes. These juices, called saignée, is sometimes used to create rosé wines (the saignée method), but if a winery can’t find a purpose for the excess juice, they may just simply throw it out. The Villicana’s save this excess, ferment, and triple distill it. Of course, as they’re wine production is so small, they also source their saignée from a few Paso neighbors, helping reduce the region’s amount of wasted wine (you should never waste wine).

The Villicana’s also like to point out the difference between their vodka and a grappa: grappas will use what is left over after fermentation; theVillicana’s are using the juices removed prior to fermentation — a completely different, and unique, result.

This particular vodka, as the name implies, has been aged in10-gallon American Oak whiskey barrels (medium char), which are 50% new and 50% used. After extensive taste tests, the Villicana’s found that aging the liquor for 12 months is just the right amount of time to soften the alcohol but also have it absorb some of those barrel characteristics, namely the color and flavor profile so well known to barrel-aging.

Indeed, the process is much like making wine — something these two, after 20 years in the winemaking business, are no stranger to. In fact, when asked about the similarities between winemaking and distilling, Monica notes, “The artistry in distilling is exactly the same as winemaking in that Alex works hard to highlight all the flavors he is working with while keeping them in balance.  Balance in terms of flavors, textures, and chemistry.” I think that’s something that even us novice wine drinkers can appreciate — balance of flavors and textures.

46.5% ABV; 93 Proof

Flavor Profile: To look at it, to smell it, and even to taste it — if not tasting critically — you will, at first, assume that this is whiskey. A deep, golden color, like burnt sugar, gleams from the glass, while aromas of maple, honey, and fresh bark waft into the lungs.

Sip it slow if sipping it straight and allow the warmth to go through your body. It may be hard to let a hard liquor linger on the tongue, but if you can, do. You’ll find a smoothness to the vodka that will gently coat the center of your tongue, while the bit of savory spices — cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon — prickle the edges of your tongue. The finish enjoyably calming — of course that’s in part due to the overwhelming alcohol that will give you that literal heart warming sensation — but it’s also due to the combination sweet-savory aftertaste that lingers on the breath. There’s the undeniable salted caramel flavor, but there’s just a hint of roasted and salted Spanish peanuts, and the slightest detection of something even more savory, like Worcester sauce.

Food Pairing: Barbecue is going to be your best friend here. A hearty, medium fatty meat (I’m thinking bone-in pork chops here) slathered in your favorite BBQ sauce will perfect cut through the alcohol and compliment that sweet-savory sensation.

Of course, like most liquors, Re:Find Vodka lends itself well to cocktails. The Villicana’s have a few recipes posted on their site. Of course, I always like playing mixologist and have crafted one of my own.

More Info: I also want to note that the Villicana’s make a Gin, Rye, and a few liqueurs (from fruit harvested on their home estate) as well — all utilizing distilled grapes.

Like I said, I think I’ve found my new new fav. Although, I would assume that the regular vodka (not barrel aged) may be more versatile in regards to general palate pleasing capabilities and creative cocktail creations. But what I’m most curious about now are their wines — if this is what they do from the run-off imagine what they’re doing with the “good stuff.”

Of course for more information about Re:Find Distillery, their products, recipes, and story, please do visit the Re:Find Distillery Website. [NOTE: I received this bottle as a sample from the Villicanas. Although they do sell their products online, they are limited to where they can ship their alcohol. Visit the Distillery’s website for more information.]

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