So I got into my car and got out of town in search of whiskey….
Although Colorado is home to one of my all-time favorite distilleries, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, I had a unique opportunity to check out some distilleries out west. Plenty of drinking and steady road tripping ensued.
First stop: Peach Tree Distillers, Palisade, Colorado on the Western Slope. Peach Tree distills many libations including vodka, gin, brandy and grappa, and boasts Colorado’s 1st Straight Bourbon. Seeing as I had been drinking some four hours prior to my arrival at Peach Street, I wasn’t in any condition to try all of their products, but I did sample the gin and the bourbon. The gin was a great floral drink and showed well with tonic and a little lime. The bourbon? Super smooth with soft hints of caramel, oak and vanilla. Only 200 bottles were made in this initial run so if you want one, better get over there pretty quick.
Next stop: High West Distillery & Saloon, Park City, Utah. I had previously written in PULP about this distillery’s products and my review was not exactly glowing. But these guys have grown up in a big way since that first review. They now offer 11 different whiskeys ranging from the flavorless Silver (a white whiskey) to the super-flavored “Campfire.”
My favorite High West whiskey is BouRye, which they suggest to “be enjoyed around a campfire while looking at the Milky Way. Sip straight or with a little water.” I wouldn’t recommend it with ice as it will cloud and the flavor will tighten.
Now it’s off to the Rogue Ales Public House in Newport, Oregon. Their whiskey, called Dead Guy, is distilled from the leftover grains from the fermentation of their Dead Guy Ale. While it is a decent whiskey with a fun name, it lacks character and smooth drinkability. However, the beer and food make it well worth a stop to this pub. Their Brutal IPA is a real winner. Tip: Don’t use your cellphone in the pub or you will be chastised!
Woodinville Whiskey Co., Woodinville, Washington, offers “microbarreled” whiskeys where the whiskey is aged in eight-gallon barrels to full maturity, giving it three times the amount of oak contact as a standard barrel. This technique really shines in this whiskey’s flavor. Huge buttery, vanilla and oak notes really permeate in both their rye and bourbon.
They also offer White Dog whiskey, another white whiskey lacking flavor. The only use I could find for this would be their do-it-yourself aging kits that they offer with a pre-toasted oak barrel. At this point Woodinville Whiskeys are not distributed in Colorado.
Also in Woodinville (just north of Seattle) you can find Soft Tail Spirits, which is a small distillery located in the back of a floor tiling shop. Soft Tail specializes in grappas which, for those of you who don’t know, are made by a process in which the stems, skins and other refused material from winemaking are distilled into something that usually tastes like floor polish. Not the case at Soft Tail. Their grappas are actually quite tasty! My favorite was their “Grappa Reserve” which is aged 24 months in oak barrels giving it a smooth and complex flavor palate similar to a fine whiskey. Buy a bottle from Soft Tail and they will hand bottle it right in front of you. Soft Tail products are only available at their distillery.
The last stop on my Northwest whiskey tour was McMenamin’s in McMinville, Oregon. Try saying that three times fast! It was here that I found my favorite whiskey of the tour. McMenamin’s is the only bar in the world where you can find the tasty spirits from Edgefield Distillery of Troutdale, Oregon. Edgefield offers a white whiskey called White Owl. I just don’t get this trend. Why make whiskey without flavor? It defeats the whole concept of whiskey.
Anyway, Edgefield does make two incredible whiskeys. Hogshead Whiskey just won Best of Class for Whiskey at the 2011 American Distilling Institute’s conference. Monkey Puzzle is Hogshead Whiskey infused with Teamaker organic hops and blackberry honey, giving it a very complex and interesting flavor. I will definitely return to Oregon and fill my car with Monkey Puzzle as it’s absolutely one of the best whiskeys I have tasted.
Most of these libations are not available in Colorado, let alone Pueblo. It’s good to get out of town sometimes.
By Adam Gazzola