Review: SGD Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask

DSR – NC – 025: SGD Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask

Company/Distillery: Southern Grace Distilleries Inc.

Location: Mount Pleasant, NC

Mash Bill: 88% Corn and 12% Malted Barley

Age Statement: 2 Years Old. Finished in Amarone Valpolicella Cask for just over 1 year.

Proof/ABV: 104.8 Proof/52.4 ABV

Color and Viscosity: From the bottle, Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask finished bourbon presents auburn in color. Viewing this whiskey from the glass, a russet hue is observed. As the whiskey is tilted in the Glencairn glass, a sharp viscous line develops that transitions to pin head beads.

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label


CONVICTION Amarone Valpolicella Cask




104.8 Proof/52.4 ALC./VOL.


Back Label


Amarone Della Valplicella, from Verona, Italy, is fermented from grapes that have been rack-dried for up to four months prior to fermentation, concentrating the natural grape sugars and flavors. Amarone is then aged in oak casks for years. Conviction Straight Bourbon Whiskey has been finished in one of these casks, infusing the bourbon with the complex and dark rich flavors that make Amarone a distinctive and cherished wine the world over. Please always drink responsibly.

Distilled, Aged, Finished and Bottled at SOUTHERN GRACE DISTILLERIES in Mount Pleasant NC

Distillery Background

Southern Grace Distilleries Inc.

In 2014, Southern Grace Distilleries co-founders Leanne Powell (who recently passed away on July 20, 2019) and Thomas Thacker found themselves transitioning out of careers in congressional offices and politics; their new career choice leading them in a completely different direction. Both had noticed the explosion and success of North Carolina craft breweries and wineries in recent years. They believed there was a chance that craft distilling would see a similar boom in the near future. Together they decided to launch Southern Grace Distilleries at the Warren C. Coleman Mill in Concord, North Carolina. Distilling began in August 2014 and the distillery’s first product, Sun Dog 130 Corn Whiskey, was shipped in January 2015. The distillery would quickly outgrow the mill. By 2016, they would move to their Mt. Pleasant, NC facility, affectionately coined Whiskey Prison.

Whiskey Prison was formally known as the Cabarrus County Correctional Facility. The facility, built in 1929, could hold up to 400 inmates when at full capacity. The prison closed in 2011 and sat abandoned until Southern Grace Distilleries began to occupy the property. Today, Southern Grace uses the old dormitory of the facility as its barrel house. The prison’s chapel and check-in center operate as the facility’s welcome centers while the newer dormitory is the site of the distilling.

Sebastian Correa is currently the Master Distiller at Southern Grace. Mr. Correa is a native of Winston-Salem, NC where he attended RJ Reynolds High School before going to Appalachian State University. Mr. Correa graduated from App State with a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science.

In addition to SGD Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask, Southern Grace Distilleries also produces Conviction Hand-Crafted Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey, Conviction Double Oaked 1929 Straight Bourbon Whiskey, SGD Conviction Cask Strength Founder’s Reserve, SGD Conviction Naranja, SGD Conviction Oloroso Sherry Cask, SGD Conviction Cognac Cask, Conviction Toast Cask Finish, Sun Dog 130 American Small Batch Corn Whiskey, Sun Dog Pink Lemonade, and Conviction White Dog.

For more information on Southern Grace Distilleries and how to visit Whiskey Prison visit their website.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: June 2, 2023 – Neat in a Glencairn glass; then with a splash of distilled water.


Christian: A quick nose of this bottle of Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask opens up your senses with a unique aromatic display of sweet grapes, dry red wine, and a touch of tart balsamic vinegar. A second pass allows notes of oak barrel char and star anise–something I find standard in Conviction products I have experienced. In my Glencairn glass, this finished whiskey smells very sweet. The wine influence jumps from the glass before giving way to very subtle hints of molasses and croissant pastry. A second whiff introduces a butteriness along with grapes, dark cherry, and almonds. Adding a few drops of distilled water really brings forth the grape jelly aromas. Dark brown sugar and pastry dough all remain a constant in the nose.

Mike: Nosing this bourbon from the bottle, I’m immediately met with fresh pressed grape juice that gives way to lightly charred oak staves. A second take provides more of the same but with a tart citrus rind aroma pushing through. In the glass there are heavy undertones of model glue upfront, transitioning to rich malt vinegar scents. Allowing this bourbon to breathe in the glass a bit, aromas of berry wine and moistened chewing tobacco develop nicely. Overall, the nose is quite pungent and exotic!

Juan: As I approach the bottle to take a deep inhale, there is an immediate conviction (no pun intended) to my love of caramel & dark chocolate. It twists a nostalgic memory of old whiskey into a modern thought of a newly found bourbon experience.


Christian: This Conviction Amarone Valpolicella Cask Finish Bourbon has a creamy mouthfeel with decent viscosity. The first flavors I notice are copious amounts of faux leather, star anise, and alcohol. A second sip brings more alcohol in different forms – sometimes I think of cherry cough syrup. Amarone Valpolicella is known for being a high octane, heavy alcohol content wine. You really can see its influence here. Distilled water really doesn’t change the taste profile here. Star anise, leather, and simple syrup remain persistent.

Mike: My first sip of this Conviction cask finish bourbon hits heavy with tobacco flavors that coat the palate. A bouquet of mixed berries and cocoa nibs, reminiscent of Brookside acai and blueberry dark chocolate candy. The dark chocolate aromas persist then fade to hints of bitter charred oak. A second pass at this whiskey produces dark honey and softened brown sugar tones, with a touch of browned butter. A slight bitter leather tannin flavor lingers on the back end, but is not displeasing. Overall, a very rich and flavorful palate.

Juan: The transition from scent to taste creates a touch of citrus (perhaps orange) and blackberry that start to engage my senses with an intense jolt of spice. The smooth pour into the glass discharges cedar notes that penetrate through with a drop of pine. As I continue to enjoy this bourbon, it begins to usher me to the flavors of straight black coffee with a hint of leather flavor.


Christian: This bourbon is leaning long in the finish and is super dry as it leaves my palate begging for a drop of water. A light warmth ignites in my throat and builds deep into my chest. There is a bitterness of the wine, oak barrel char, and star anise that stands strong here in the finish. Long after the whiskey has been swallowed a sweetness from the grapes rejoins the experience. Distilled water does not prevent this whiskey from maintaining a bold sharp finish. Dryness remains the name of the game here. Sweet wine, star anise, and leather are all present.

Mike: Medium to long finish on this offering from Southern Grace Distillery. The heat provides a subtle warmth to the back of the throat and palate then dissipates, only to reemerge with vengeance in the mid-chest region, where it persists beautifully. There is a delightful dark berry medley that lingers on the palate.

Juan: The grand finale leaves me feeling a little empty despite my desire for a strong finish due to this bourbon’s 103.4 proof. While its smooth sexy touch of raw moonshine causes an arousal of the senses, there is a missing force of spice. It strands me on the side of the road with a buttery maple syrup bite waiting for climax to drive by and take me home. Overall, the flavors and finish are satisfying enough for a return visit.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: It seems to me that what Southern Grace Distillery has created with this Amarone Valpolicella finished straight bourbon is a polarizing drinking experience. Some folks, like Mike, are going to absolutely dig this offering. Others, like myself, will find the flavors and wine influence to simply be too much. The significant notes of star anise, leather, and poignant alcohol is just not for me, but don’t let that stop you from trying it, you might really dig it.

Rating: 2.40 Rickhouses

Mike: This is such a unique offering from Southern Grace Distillery! Let this one breathe a little before enjoying it. The flavors are rich and bold, becoming somewhat dry on the finish. Robust undertones of dark chocolate and berries carry through from start to finish with just enough intermingling of sweet tobacco notes to balance things out. I like this pour from Southern Grace Distillery, though not an everyday drinker, its distinctiveness sets it far apart from any cask finished whiskey I’ve sampled to date.

Rating: 3.625 Rickhouses

Juan: As a known lover to Straight Bourbon Whiskey two years and older, Conviction Amarone has the potential to encourage a strong relationship due to its smooth finish. The caramel chocolate in the intro is a true highlight in this sample. Tasting from the glass provides a gentle kiss to remember. I recommend this one to a bourbon drinking beginner. JP’s Stick Pick: If you wish to enjoy a smoke with this bottle, I recommend a Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary “Maduro” Cigar. Happy drinking!

Special thanks to Third Wheel Phil for picking up this bottle for us after his ghost tour of Southern Grace Distillery!



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