Tag Archives: microdistillers

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Review

Distiller: Tuthilltown Distillery. 46% ABV. NAS. Mashbill: 60% corn, undisclosed proportions of rye, wheat, and malted barley. Price: $50 for 375ml.

Tuthilltown Distillery is a pioneer NY state microdistiller that won the national distribution lottery after being purchased by William Grant & Sons in 2010. Raft of awards aside, the knock on Hudson/Tuthilltown is that they coast on their excellent packaging and early reputation, while selling underaged spirits matured (mostly) in 3-gallon barrels that do the product few favors — for the equivalent of $100 for a 750.

That said, the Four Grain is the best-reviewed of their current offerings. So how is it?

From a fresh bottle, the raw green oak and biting spirit make it almost painful to nose. A few pours (and some time) in, the rawness subsides enough to let some apricot and sourdough through. The palate is more complex and successful, reflecting the mashbill’s relatively rare blend of four grains. I get burnt apple pie, clove, and pine.

It’s easy to see why Hudson whiskies sell: they look great, draw the curious, and seem like a perfect gift. And I like this one more than the other Hudsons I’ve tried. But for $100 for 750ml of whiskey, there aren’t just a dozen big boys I’d pick over this, there are quite a few microdistillers too. – BO

(Addendum: Haven’t seen them on the shelf in CA yet, but I’ve heard that 750ml bottles of the Hudson Baby Bourbon are showing up in stores with a price tag of $60 — definitely more appropriate.)

Buy Hudson whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Seven Stills Chocasmoke Review

Distiller: Seven Stills. 47% ABV. Age: 6 months. Mashbill: undisclosed (from oatmeal stout with peated malt). Price: $35-45 for 375ml.

Seven Stills is the brainchild of San Franciscans Tim Olbert and Clint Potter, who’ve set out on the ingenious–and in retrospect, oddly obvious–mission of making great craft whiskies from great craft beers.

As of summer 2015, they’re released three out of a planned series of seven: Whipnose (from a double IPA), Fluxuate (from a coffee porter), and the above-mentioned Chocasmoke, from a chocolate oatmeal stout.

Call me crazy, but I loved this stuff. I’m not one for anything that can show up in the “Novelty Whiskey” part of the menu (LA’s Thirsty Crow Bar actually has one), but Chocasmoke won me over.

Full-blown chocolate oatmeal stout nose–no surprise there–but then…lemon! The palate’s unexpectedly bright. Youth is evident, as to be expected from a mere six months of aging, no matter how small your barrels, but it’s under control. Smoked honey. Bitter cocoa and mild peat.  Lovely alternation between the darker nose and brighter palate as you make your way through the dram. A little like a wild armagnac turned up to 11. Just imagine this with some age!

Yes, it’s mostly available in California. And yes, the price for a 375ml should give you pause. But if you’re at a whiskey bar adventurous enough to stock it, and especially if your taste in beer runs rich and chocolatey, don’t pass it up.

I’ll be following future Seven Stills releases with great interest. Lay up a few barrels for some serious aging, gents! – BO

Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt Review

Distiller: Westland. 46% ABV. Age: 2+ years. Grain bill: 100% malted barley. Price: $70.

You know what I love more than almost anything? The “now I get it” moment. Never comes at the start of a bottle, even one that’s great from the first sip. It’s usually a few days/drams in.

Just had mine with the Westland Sherry Wood last night. This Seattle-made single malt is the third release in Westland’s core range, which includes their standard single malt and a peated version. The Sherry Wood comes from a grain bill that includes Washington, Munich, and pale chocolate malt, and is aged “at least” 26 months, first in new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, then in ex-Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez sherry butts.

Give this one time. The first impression was just pure, unadulterated sweet sherry. Not a finish, but a 50-50 whiskey-sherry mix. Two nights later, maple syrup, cookie dough, and raisins emerged. Then last night: wow. There’s the malt, rich and decadent. Cocoa. Ginger. Roasted nuts. And the other notes now beautifully integrated.

How soon can I make it up to Seattle? – BO

Stranahan’s Diamond Peak Colorado Whiskey Review

Distiller: Stranahan’s. 47% ABV. Age: 4 years. Mashbill: 100% malted barley. Price: $70-80. Reviewed: Batch 4.

My curiosity about the big doings in Colorado got the better of me recently, and I pulled the trigger on the Stranahan’s. Having heard about some batch-to-batch inconsistency with their standard 2-year offering (all but inevitable with a small craft distiller), I wanted to try it in its best light, so I paid the extra $20 for the Diamond Peak–at 4 years old, their most mature offering so far. I got Batch 004.

Stranahan’s has won a rabid following in its home state of Colorado since releasing its first bottle in 2006. (It’s currently owned by NJ-based Proximo Spirits, though production remains in Colorado.) The legend: volunteer firefighter Jess Graber came to put out a fire at the barn of George Stranahan, and the two got to talking amid the embers. They discovered a shared love for whiskey, and the idea for Stranahan’s was born. It’s a single malt, using only local Rocky Mountain barley and water, aged in new American oak. Their extremely limited, once-a-year Snowflake release adds cask finishings to the mix: cognac, sherry, cherry wine.

Let me cut to the chase: this may be the best American single malt I’ve ever tasted. As you make your way through the first few drams from a fresh bottle, the nose blooms in a fascinating way. At first it recalls a fresh, honeyed Irish pot still whiskey–say the Green Spot. Later, the coppery pot still sweetness is still there, but it’s become richer, darker, with just a touch of funk in the back. Old saddle leather. Stale beer. Pencil eraser. Odd. In another minute or two, those notes blew off, leaving a marvelously rich, winey, cognac-like bouquet. What a nose.

Palate: Sweet but not overly so. Roasted cocoa beans. A touch of youthful bite, but only on the first dram from the bottle, and even that resolves itself with a few drops of water and another few minutes in the glass. Molasses. Pumpernickel bread. Fresh dough–for oatmeal raisin cookies. Body’s a touch thinner than the rich nose leads you to expect, but still pleasantly substantial. Medium finish.

Hats off, Stranahan’s! Can’t wait to see what’s to come. – BO

Buy Stranahan’s Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Lost Spirits Seascape Single Malt Review

Distiller: Lost Spirits. ABV: 65%(!) Age: 4 years. Price: $55

There are few distillers anywhere as wild and innovative as Lost Spirits’ Bryan Davis. The story, as I heard it, is that he and his wife Joanne were living in Spain and running a small absinthe distillery when they had their first taste of Bruichladdich’s Octomore. It was a revelation. Bryan had a thought: Why couldn’t there be an American Octomore? Not a copy, but something as wild, bold, and brawny, made with native ingredients on native soil — say that little scrap of family land they had waiting for them an hour south of San Francisco?

So goes the legend of the Mad Scientist of Monterey, CA.

Here’s one of his monsters. The Seacape may be, in its own way, the closest think I can imagine to an American Octomore. It’s a single malt from peated barley, aged four years in Lost Spirits’ own Navy Rum casks. An explosion of campfire, iodine, tons of salt — no surprise given the barley was fermented in Pacific Ocean water — and a certain patented Lost Spirits funk.

Best tried in small doses and side-by-side with others in their line. Even then, they’re only for the adventurous. But I’m awfully glad they’re out there. (When you can find them, that is — Lost Spirits has focused almost exclusively on making overproof rums in recent years, which are excellent in their own way.)

Hats off, Bryan. Please keep ’em coming! – BO

FEW Bourbon Review

Distiller: FEW Spirits. 46.5% ABV. 3 years old. Mashbill: 70% corn, 20% rye, 10% barley.

A huge personal favorite of both Axis co-despots, this is one of the finest “craft” bourbons one the market, and it’s distilled right in Thane McDram’s backyard.

Started by an Evanston, IL, local, FEW Spirits uses local ingredients and distills onsite to make a terrific roster of gins, a superb rye and white whiskey, and this beauty.

It has a lovely caramel color and an initial nose of bourbon spice and cinnamon. Palate of corn, cinnamon with pepper sneaking up and a touch of juniper. You can taste the youth of this bourbon, but it’s not off-putting. Bright, brash, and a standout against the backdrop of the many fine but familiar Kentucky flavors.

As always, hats off to Paul Hletko and crew. – TM