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Malted rye whiskeys made in San Francisco, aged in wine barrels.

"For Gentleman And Savage Alike!" 

Coming soon to a cocktail bar near you!

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Workhorse Rye is a progressive whiskey company based in San Francisco.

Let's tell you why we fancy ourselves progressive, and why you're going to be (if you aren't already) on our team.

Workhorse Rye was founded by Rob Easter & David Gordon in 2011 in a foggy backyard in the Mission.

We are "gypsy distillers".

What? YES. Gypsies. That means we don't *own* a distillery.

Rather we utilize other people's distilleries, but make the recipes and products ourselves. 

This allows for lower overhead, and for all capital to go directly into making whiskey. 

Its already a popular and viable model for brewers and wine makers, why not utilize those principles for distilling? So essentially we own our brand and recipes, but we lease equipment, time, and space when appropriate.

We always do the appropriate thing.

Speaking of which, our whiskey comes from organic grains, and we think that's super appropriate. We want to have the best impact possible on your taste buds AND the environment. The most appropriate option in our eyes is committing to organic. Simple as that.

Did you know that whiskey comes from beer?


Whiskey is essentially distilled beer. That's a little oversimplified but, it works for now.

We make malted rye, barley, and wheat beers at Thirsty Bear Organic Brewery. We distill said beers on Treasure Island in an old Navy jailhouse. Its kind of a scary place with some interesting history, but the joint makes great booze.

Long fermentation and used French Oak red wine barrel aging put our whiskies in a league of their own.

"Long" fermentation in the case of whiskey means a little over two weeks. We like to point ours in the direction of a Belgian style ale, quite fruity and aromatic.

Used barrels meaning that they housed something before our whiskey. You got that though.

We like that. That means that the spirit gets to do most of the talking, and its not masked by a lot of barrel taste since the previous liquid already took most of that influence out.

Lightly toasted French Oak barrels give a spirit taste and smell that is WAY different than a new charred American oak barrel, like those legally required for making Bourbon.

French Oak barrels are a bit more subtle and nuanced in their flavor addition, so we're quite liberal with our Toasted French Oak usage, while rather conservative in our use of Charred American Oak.


Taste, not time, is our all knowing shaman of sorts.

Older whiskey doesn't necessarily mean better whiskey.

Quality comes from ingredients and attention, its not solely based on the number on the bottle.

Sometimes we pull whiskey out of the barrel after a year, but other times we patiently wait.

Once we are happy with the spirit, we pull it from the wine barrel and drop the alcohol percentage from 58%, which is barreling strength, to a little more friendly 46%.

We like the elevated aromas and tastes that elevated alcohol presence lends. This is because alcohol is a preservative; it preserves flavor.

Higher alcohol percentage allows you to smell and taste the nuanced flavors for which we worked so hard. So for example a whiskey at 46% ABV has more flavor potential than the same whiskey at 40%.

When you pour our whiskey into a glass -- you should probably use a wine glass to fully understand it -- go ahead and take a sip, willy nilly.

Then smell it a lot. Blow on it. The first thing to evaporate is the ethanol.


Its deeper. So blow the ethanol vapors and then stick your nose in it.

Then take another sip. Different right?

After you have some fun with that, add some purified water.

Let's shoot for around two-thirds whiskey and one-third water.

Your nose is going to rejoice.

Volatile chemical compounds are going to awaken and be unlocked by lowering the alcohol percentage. This will make you think you have something other than whiskey in your glass. Chemical compounds are shared by everything and everyone.

There's iron in your blood and there's iron in the ground. There's isoamyl acetate in bananas and there's isoamyl acetate in coffee.

That's why its not weird to say a wine or a coffee tastes or smells like something its not.

Its also not weird to smell chocolate strawberry in (our) whiskey, because...

The same chemical makeup in chocolate and strawberries can be conjured by yeast.

And then distilled.

And then called Workhorse Rye.


We love drinking our whiskey neat, but we're also interested in mixing with our whiskey too.

It is not sacrilege to mix with a quality spirit AS LONG AS the mixer is of the same caliber.

Click here to see some of our favorite conceptions.


We are just about to release whiskeys to the public after a couple years of perfecting our practice and aging our juice.

The first two whiskeys being released this spring in California and online are called

Palehorse and Dark Horse.

They differ in their methods of aging but both showcase our distinct flagship recipe of

70% Rye -- 20% Barley -- 10% Wheat 

All malted, all organic.

Click here to learn more specifics about the whiskeys we make.

PALEHORSE is aged in used whiskey barrels -- like Scotch and Tequila are aged -- which in the end makes a Frankenstein whiskey of sorts. A FRANKENSTEIN WHISKEY in that the recipe is very American (rye) but the aging style lands somewhere in between Scotch and Japanese whisky (used American oak barrels). 

DARK HORSE is aged in used French Oak red wine barrels from a number of wineries inside the city of San Francisco and in Napa. Each release of Dark Horse will have a hand-written notation of which winery the barrels came from. Our favorite barrel-source is a winery right here in the city of San Francisco called Sutton Cellars. This type of batch-to-batch distinction lends a sort of fleeting nature to each release, and we think that makes each barrel rather special. 


We've partnered with the coffee professionals at Four Barrel to develop a few products to be released alongside our whiskeys, first of which is a Coffee Rye Bitters. We got a little wild and ended up with a bitters that uses rye whiskey and brandy to extract flavors from coffee, grapefruit peel, chiltepin, quassia bark, and clove. We added some Carignan wine from Sutton Cellars for sweetness, body, and color. Very simple recipe showcasing fresh and beautiful produce!


If you work at a whiskey and/or cocktail bar and want to do a bartender tasting, 

shoot an email to

To keep up to date on what we do, follow our Instagram @WorkhorseRye

We are excited to share our first releases in Spring 2014 online through K& L Wines and at the joints below. More bars to come, but at first these are the only places on which we will be focusing.

San Francisco --- Rye

Napa --- Ad Hoc

San Diego --- The Lion's Share

Los Angeles --- To Be Announced

San Clemente --- To Be Announced

Hold fast, fight the good fight. Over and out.

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