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