Tag Archives: Single Malt

Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky

wasmundsI picked up Wasmund’s at Astor Place last week because it is a non-bourbon American whiskey that I’ve never heard of before.  That intrigues me.  I’m always looking for people who are innovating and trying new things in the spirits industry here in the US, even if that means attempting to recreate another nation’s approach, as the “single malt” moniker implies.

Another intriguing element of Wasmund’s is its age of…wait for it…four months.  Four months!  There I was, looking at a bottle filled with brown whiskey that’s four months old?  At the very least, this would be an experience similar to Georgia Moon or perhaps last week’s brandy, both young spirits.  At best, the creator had worked some distillation magic and produced a fine, but extremely young drink.  Either way, it would be interesting.

Stats:

$30-40

– Made by Copper Fox Distillery

– 96 proof

Presentation:

Wasmund’s label is nothing special.  It displays its name in bold red letters at its curved top, below which are depicted an axe & chopping block (having recently chopped some wood chips), a copper pot still, and a trio of casks.  In no fewer than four more fonts, the label describes where it’s from, that it’s non chill-filtered, that it’s a single malt whisky (no ‘e’), and that it’s falvored and colored with applewood, cherrywood, and oak.  In the background there’s a stylized fox.

There are too many fonts to allow me to enjoy this label.  The color scheme (red, black, tan) is attractive enough, and – individually – the graphic elements are passable, but over all it comes across as cluttered and unfocused.  They would be better off focusing on the fox logo as a central element and cutting down the font-madness.

I have seen worse, however.

On the back label, creator Rick Wasmund makes the case for his whisky.  He describes following a traditional Scottish method, except replacing peat with fruit woods: interesting.  He also says that the spirit is aged in casks along with wood chips: that explains the mere four months of aging!

Aging with wood chips is a common practice amon home-distillers who lack access to proper casks to mature their product, but I can’t recall any other commercial brand that uses this practice.  In theory it makes a lot of sense: whiskeys reach maturity as a result of its contact with the wood, therefore if you increase the exposed surface area of wood, you wll reach maturity faster.  Having been founded only in 2000, Copper Fox is a young operation, and most likely saw this method as a way to bring the product to the market in a shorter time frame – namely, four months.

Clever.  Whether or not this turns out well, I applaud Mr. Wasmund for his willingness to experiment and question orthodoxies in the American whiskey industry.  We need more people trying more methods in order to stay relevant and to push our industry further.

Tasting:

To the nose, Wasmund’s is largely made up of smoke, rubber, wood, and alcohol.  The wood scent is not the familiar oak; this must be the apple and cherry woods described.  Yet, the youth of this whiskey comes through in the harsh alcohol scent that accompanies it.

On tasting, the prominent sensation is something like salt cod, beyond which lies that non-oak wood, a bit of smoke, and a general impression of the ocean.  The finish is long, hot, and peppery.

This is surpisingly mature for a four (!) month old whiskey, but still clearly young.  The flavors come and go with a speed and clarity that belies their variety and its heat, if nothing else, betrays its youth.

It is also definitely in the Scotch style.  That oceanic sensation is a reflection of this, perhaps owing to the smoking of the barley before fermentation.

Over all:

This is not my favorite whiskey.  It is, however, a good effort at breaking the accepted practices of whiskey making in America.  We should judge practices like aging with wood chips by the spirits they produce, rather than by the processes we are familiar with. In that light, though they are far from where they could be, I encourage Mr. Wasmun in his efforts, and hope to see other varieties from Copper Fox soon.

St. George Single Malt Whiskey

When I was down at LeNell’s this weekend looking for my next couple of bottles they were having an absinthe tasting – of St. George’s variety in particular.  When I probed about the company, I found that not only were thy based in the US, but that they produced a single malt whiskey as well.  So, taking a break from the march of bourbons, today I bring you St. George Single Malt Whiskey: the whiskey that wants to be a whisky.

Presentation:

The first thing you’ll notice about SGSMW is that it does not appear to be American.  The label features  dragon clutching St. George’s cross and Celtic-esque script.

The rear label’s description says nothing of its origins, describing in only the vaguest of terms what to expect.  Really, St. George, you can’t make a single malt in America with out saying something more in-depth than telling us how complex and elegant it is?  The one tidbit they do slip in there is that this is apparently the result of “the industry’s smallest copper pot still.”

The only clues to the beverage’s New World origins are the declaration of “Alameda, CA” on the back and the fact that they spell our beloved drink with the ‘e’.  I can only think that this is deliberate.

Tasting:

SGSMW is very light in color, a testament to its time spent in used bourbon and French oak barrels – it really stands out against my growing collection of Kentucky natives.

To the nose, it is crisp and refreshing, like granny smith apples mostly.  There are also hints from the bourbon casks in the honeyed patina.  Maybe also the smell of a distant ocean.

To the palate, the granny smiths are certainly there, but quickly followed by a nutty, nutmeg-like essence.  Adding to the already full mouth feel is its sweet creaminess.  Reminds me of drinking eggnog with good spiced rum in December.

The flavors linger for some time – especially the crispness of the apple.

Overall:

I was pleased with St. George Single Malt Whiskey.  It is not an intense whiskey, it’s full of bright and friendly flavors.  I’d be interested to know how long it lived in the barrel and to try some differently aged varieties.  I think there would be much more to be gotten from the bourbon casks.

I do like that St. George did not feel obligated to take the traditional American route when producing its whiskey; it’s products like these that will allow the resurgence of whiskey consumption in this country to remain viable as more than a follow-on fad to Scotch.

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey

After trying my hand with some well-buzzed Kentucky bourbons over the last two weeks, I’ve decided to venture out from the Bluegrass State and try something a little closer to home – both geographically and nominally. I’m a single malt Scotch drinker in New York and this week I tried Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Single Malt Whiskey (HSMW).

Presentation:

HSMW comes in a short, stout little bottle with varying thickness of the glass, especially around the top. This, along with the hand numbering and un-machinic wax-sealed cork, gives off a very homemade, little guy impression. I have to say that this is not at all unwelcome, especially given the carefully crafted reflective nostalgia of Buffalo Trace’s flagship brand and (to a lesser extent) Four Roses’ Small Batch offering. Tuhilltown’s products come across as unpretentiously American, authentic, while still reviving an older style of liquor production.

My expectations for HSMW were mainly drawn from 1) the 100% barley mash and 2) the use of petite, new charred oak casks. I expected a higher complexity of flavor compared to the Kentucky bourbons I’d sampled the past two weeks, as well as heavy charred oak influence with a bit of vanilla. Basically, I imagined the influence of the smaller casks used in Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask translated to a less corn-driven whiskey.

It turns out I was a bit off.

Tasting:

To the nose, HSMW was wonderfully light and oaky with an every so slight hint of vanilla. This was more akin to the Four Roses Small Batch than it was to most Scotches or the Buffalo Trace.

Upon drinking the oakiness becomes very dominant. There is no doubt that the choice of casks had a strong influence. After the oak though, there were waves of freshly cut grass and an almost hidden twinge of nectar. The finish was very clean.

Over all:

HSMW was far less complex than I had expected or hoped. Still, this was a very enjoyable, drinkable whiskey that stands out from the crowd.

It seems that what they have here is a promising, but largely blank, canvas that could do with more aging and varied cask selection. Clearly the whiskey drew much of its character from the petite oak casks, so I’d be curious to sample a variation with either more time in that cask, or influence from sherry, zinfandel, or other casks along those lines.

That said, I can see myself coming back to HSMW more regularly than Four Roses or Buffalo Trace. I’m intrigued to find out more about the other Tuthilltown offerings.