With the Whisky and Whiskey boom that we have been seeing for the past decade or so – the landscape of what is available from all parts of the world has been ever-changing and almost continually expanding. New distilleries are coming online at an amazing rate and new bottles hit our shelves with sometimes frightening regularity – only to disappear and be replaced with another new whisky that we may have never seen before.
That is on a worldwide scale. The United States itself is no different – in fact, it is one of the centres of the current landscape of distillery building and new whiskey production that we find ourselves in. You can get a glimpse of what is happening in America through this great list by a gentleman who knows his stuff here.
We don’t get everything that is being produced in America when it comes to whiskey but we are seeing more and more arrive north of the border. With so many new and/or little-known bottles available it is fun to dip in and discover some new possible must have bottles. With that in mind, I selected six relatively new to us American Whiskies (and one favourite of mine that I personally wanted to try again!) and lined them up for a tasting.
Here is what we sampled:
Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey – $76
Pennsylvania is oft considered the original creator of the Rye Whiskey style that was popular before Bourbon started to make its mark. Sadly, Rye fell by the wayside and so did distilling in this state for quite some time. This fabled style of Rye was called Monongahela-style Rye and originated from farmers in the area around the similarly titled river.
Dad’s Hat Distillery is in Bristol, PA. By US regulations you can call a whiskey rye if you use 51% or more of the grain in your mashbill. Dad’s Hat Rye typically has a mashbill considering of 80% Rye, 15 % malted Rye, and 5% malted Barley. Much of the spirit is put into smaller 15 Gallon (55 Litre) barrels with a number 4 Char (55 seconds of with the inside of the barrel on fire – also sometimes called Alligator Char).
Rough Rider Bourbon – $65
There are some companies that begin with a distillery and then wait to have something to sell. And then there are some that source ready-made barrels of whiskey to sell as there own. With these, it can be difficult to differentiate yourself beyond different packaging – unless you do something different to the whiskey before you release it in your own bottle.
Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whiskey was distilled in Indiana and bottled by Long Island Spirits of New York. The mash bill for this Bourbon is 60% Corn, 35% Rye, and 5% Malted Barley. After spending at least two years in American Oak casks it is finished in French Oak ex-Chardonnay wine casks that were rinsed/seasoned with high-proof brandy. Bottled at 45% ABV.
Chuckanut Bay Distillery Bourbon – $77
Most Bourbon is made up of three different grains: Corn, Rye, and Malted Barley. Some distilleries and companies will substitute Wheat for the Rye but you still typically end up with a whiskey built from a three-grain mash bill. The mash bill for this bourbon From Chuckanut Bay Distillery actually includes a less typical four grains: Corn, Wheat, Rye and Barley.
Coming to us from Bellingham, Washington – which happens to be the most northern city in the mainland United States outside of Alaska. Made using locally sourced grain and distilled in small batches in an also small 150 Gallon (565 Litres) Pot Still. Bottled at a respectable 48% ABV.
Cooperstown Cooper’s Legacy Bourbon – $125
Cooperstown, New York isn’t just home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame anymore. Now there is another reason to visit – a Distillery! Cooperstown Distillery is young – having been founded in October of 2013. They do gin and vodka and have also sourced some whiskey for some of their bottles. The Cooper`s Legacy is a Bourbon made entirely at their own distillery. It will, of course, be on the younger side because of this but it shows a great deal of toffee and butterscotch on the nose and palate.
Westland American Oak Whiskey – $100
Westland is another distillery in Washington state – in this case residing in Seattle. The Westland Distillery forgoes Rye and Bourbon and instead focuses on Single Malt Whiskey – though not entirely in the Scottish style. Most of their releases have had a typical strong virgin oak influence when it comes to the barrels the whiskey was aged in.
The American Oak version that we tasted is made from a selection of five different barley malts. It is aged for at least two years in a combination of first fill ex-bourbon casks and virgin oak casks.
Stranahan’s Diamond Peak Whiskey – $85
This Single Malt Whiskey hails from Colorado. Well before the Craft Whiskey boom kicked off in the USA, Stranahan’s started distilling in 2004. It was Colorado’s first legal distillery founded since prohibition. In 2010 it was sold to Proximo Spirits of New Jersey. It currently makes two regular lines: The self-titled Stranahan’s and the Diamond Peak that we tasted.
Diamond Peak Whiskey is hand bottled at 47% ABV and sourced from selected barrels that are at least four years of age. The barrels were originally Char Level 3 barrels – meaning the barrels were charred for 35 seconds before the fire was extinguished.
High West Campfire – $100
High West has been around for a while in Park City, Utah – since 2007 to be exact. It was the first legal distillery to open in Utah since Prohibition. They do have a distillery but they have not released much of their own aged whiskey thus far. What they do, and have done very well for a long time, is source whiskey from other distilleries and then blend it together masterfully to create some excellent bottles.
They also do Campfire. High West Campfire is probably their most unique and also their most divisive product. The components of this bottle may give you an idea as to why: Campfire is a blend of Straight Rye Whiskey plus Straight Bourbon Whiskey – but that is not all! It also contains some Blended Malt Scotch – and this Scotch is Peated. Campfire is a mutant of a whiskey. I say that endearingly as I love the stuff. But not everybody does.
After working our way through these seven bottles the group chose their favourites. Usually, we would be talking about a podium placing of first, second and third but in this case we had a three-way tie at the top!
Thank you to everybody in attendance and a big thank you to Cured Delicatessen for providing the food compliment!