Distiller: Oola Distillery. ABV: 45%. Mashbill: it’s complicated (see below).
Oola’s a little distiller in Seattle that doesn’t have the scale or renown of its neighbor Westland yet, but they’re doing good things early on and being rewarded with a steadily growing reputation.
Their flagship Waitsburg Bourbon, first released in 2012, took a similar approach to microdistillers like HIllrock, blending their own young distillate with older sourced bourbon, then aging it in their own barrels.
Their Smoked Whiskey is their latest release, second of three in their experimental “Whiskey Discourse” series. It’s a bit like a next-generation version of High West’s Campfire, which spices up an American bourbon with a little peated Islay single malt. Oola takes the idea even further–with great results.
They start with a mashbill close to that of their Waitsburg Bourbon–60% corn, 20% rye, 15% malted barley, and 5% wheat–but smoke their barley with cherry and apple wood, some grape vine cuttings, and even used bourbon barrel staves. They age this in a series of barrels of different sizes, from 15 to 53 gallons, for four years.
Here’s the surprise: they separately age in their own barrels a young sourced Highland scotch to four years, then blend about 1/3 of that with about 2/3 of the American whiskey, and boom: they got their American Smoked Whiskey.
How is it? Excellent. I love the nose, which leads with fruity smoke –subtle at first, but give it time, as it constantly evolves in the glass. Hickory charcoal briquettes. Red berries, vanilla, dry fir needles–that’s the rye talking. Palate: Nice spice. Dry cinnamon. Burnt sugar cookie. A little new leather, and a little rye here too. With a few drops of water, sweeter and rounder. Chicken barbecue well-done. Finish is mild but medium long, with lightly sweet white ash.
There’s great territory to explore between the worlds of bourbon and scotch, and I love that Oola’s doing it. They hope to ship their Smoked Whiskey to all 18 states they currently cover, and their third Whiskey Discourse release is just weeks away.
Keep an eye out, try it if you can, and let us know what you think! Cheers, friends! – BO
Oola generously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.