Seven Stills Czar – Distiller: Seven Stills. ABV: 47%. No age statement. Price: $30-40 (375ml).
The craft-beer-to-whiskey path is a well-traveled one. The esteemed Lew Bryson tells in the excellent Tasting Whiskey how he made the transition–a bit unexpectedly–when his employer, Beer Advocate magazine, abruptly transitioned to Malt Advocate magazine. (Soon it would be called Whisky Advocate, and Bryson would be managing editor there until 2015.) I made a similar transition myself some years back, with a detour in cocktail geekery along the way.
The good guys at Seven Stills did too. Tim and Clint were Bay Area college buddies obsessed with craft beer–as drinkers and brewers. They couldn’t help but wonder what some of their favorites would like taste like as whiskies. They got their hands on a little copper still and started experimenting. They haven’t stopped yet.
The Seven Stills Czar is part of the Seven Stills Series: whiskies based on craft beers the guys developed themselves, each of them devoted to one of San Francisco’s seven hills. (The Czar’s, fittingly enough, is Russian Hill.)
They started with their own Russian Imperial Stout–a favorite style of mine–and distill it twice. Now here’s the trick: the second distillation passes through a gin basket filled with hops.
Wait…a hopped stout…as a whiskey? How does that work?
Very well, it turns out.
The nose on the Seven Stills Czar has the roasted coffee and baking cocoa notes you might expect from the stout base. But the hops add a very distinct, very bright halo of pink grapefruit. Utterly intriguing–this is coming from a hopped-whiskey skeptic–and very appealing. Beyond it, hints of caramel, molasses.
The grapefruit turns to wild raspberry on the palate, bringing a distinct tang. Then chocolate lava cake, and a malty, beery core that’s familiar from other Seven Stills whiskies. The barrel influence comes through as cedar and cigar box.
The finish brings the end-of-the-beer-glass stout notes back, along with wild raspberry jam and burnt popcorn.
The Czar has officially taken me from hopped-whiskey skeptic to hopped-whiskey believer. I tried it on a Wednesday, and was back to the store on a Thursday to get a gift bottle for a friend.
Stay tuned for notes on two more tasty new Seven Stills releases coming soon.
Cheers, friends! – BO