There is no section of my local liquor store expanding quite so rapidly as American craft whiskey. New distilleries seem to be emerging every day, as do new whiskeys. I have to admit that I have not been impressed with all of it, but I have really enjoyed some of the craft whiskeys released in the United States over the last few years.
For the purposes of this series, some of these whiskeys could be included in different categories (i.e. Dad’s Hat is also a rye whiskey in addition to being a craft whiskey), but I stated at the beginning that each whiskey could only receive one nomination, so that is why each of these whiskeys appears here as opposed to on another list. So, here are the nominees for American Craft Whiskey:
Name: Balcones “1” Texas Single Malt
Batch: SM 12-9
Age: No Age Statement
Proof: 106 (53% abv)
Notes: This was one of the first batches of Texas Single Malt released, and it did not disappoint. This whiskey elicited rich banana bread notes, a nutty sweetness, and a rich berry creaminess. This whiskey really worked to forge a new style all its own, and it worked beautifully. The only caveat to this nomination is that I have tried a few successive batches of this whiskey that I have not liked nearly as much as I liked this first batch. That said, this particular batch was brilliant whiskey. “1” Texas Single Malt is available on a limited basis the further one gets from Texas.
Name: Corsair Triple Smoke
Distillery: Corsair Artisan Distillery
Age: No Age Statement
Proof: 80 (40% abv)
Notes: This whiskey is a blend of three different malted barley samples, one smoked over cherry wood, one smoked over peat, and one smoked over beechwood. The resulting whiskey is a unique take on smoked malt whiskey, yielding flavors of fiery peat, sweet barley, and freshly cut oak. This is definitely a young whiskey that is a little rough around the edges, but the flavors are unique and they are bursting out of the bottle. This is a hard whiskey to find, but if you do, it’s worth a try. They are not too many like this one floating around.
Name: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye
Distillery: Mountain Laurel Spirits
Age: 6 months
Proof: 90 (45% abv)
Notes: This rye is made in the authentic Pennsylvania style, meaning that corn is not included in the mashbill as found in Kentucky ryes. Dad’s Hat is then aged in new oak quarter casks for a minimum of 6 months. You would probably think that after only 6 months, this whiskey would be hot and brash, but it is nothing of the sort. Even at its young age, this is a quality whiskey, with cocoa dust, rich black cherries, fresh oak shavings, and white chocolate. This is one of those whiskeys that is really good and gets you really excited about tasting such a well-made spirit at an older age (Dad’s Hat will be rolling out a 3 year-old rye this spring). This whiskey was awarded “Craft Whiskey of the Year” by Whisky Advocate magazine for good reason. It is widely available in the mid-Atlantic, but gets harder to find the further one is from Pennsylvania.
Name: High West Campfire
Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Unnamed Scottish Distilleries – Blended and Bottled at High West
Age: 5 Years
Proof: 92 (46% abv)
Notes: I had trouble decided whether or not High West belonged in the American Craft Whiskey category or not, but as they were undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the American craft movement, I have included their whiskeys here. This particular whiskey is a blend of a rye whiskey, a bourbon, and a peated blended malt Scotch from an undisclosed source. The result is something both unique and special. Sweet flavors such as caramel, honey, and vanilla are present, as are herbal flavors like pine and juniper. All these flavors are accented wonderfully by a twinge of rolling smoke. This whiskey is widely available; you can find it in almost any liquor store where High West products are sold.
Name: High West Double Rye!
Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Barton 1792 – Blended and Bottled at High West
Age: 2 Years
Proof: 92 (46% abv)
Notes: Double Rye! is made at the High West Distillery in Utah by marrying two different whiskeys – a 95% rye mashbill, 2 year-old whiskey from MGP in Indiana, and a 16 year-old, 53% rye mashbill from the Barton Distillery in Kentucky. The resulting whiskey is a tour-de-force of rye flavors. All the spice cabinet range of a great rye is present here, but it is all buttressed by rich honey and vanilla notes to round out a great profile. The great part about this rye is that it is available almost everywhere in the United States, and it won’t break the bank.