When we started this blog, I knew nothing about whiskey besides the fact that it all tasted like paint thinner, just different brands. But as Don kept posting whiskey reviews (remember when he used to do that? 🙂 ) I started to get curious.
I tried Knob Creek and liked it, and I bought some Makers to see if it was as bad as Don claimed it was (it was), but my watershed whiskey moment came when Wild Turkey sent us each several samples of their fine products for an online tasting. It was the first time I tasted several whiskeys at once and the light bulb went off in my head. Suddenly I “got” what the whole whiskey deal was about.
Since then I’ve tried and enjoyed a handful of other whiskeys, but I still consider myself an enthusiastic novice. And while I might lack the experience to do a big-time whiskey review like my boozy brother, I feel Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is a special case, because it’s perfect for beer geeks who are “whiskey curious.”
Stranahan’s is made with the same spirit that fuels the craft beer revolution. In this case they call it “artisinal distilling,” but the results are the same – unusual and creative beverages made will love and skill. And while I appreciate what makes it different, it’s the kind of whiskey that makes some afficianados a little nuts. It’s only aged about two years. It’s made in Colorado. It doesn’t have a classic whiskey flavor profile. I’m sure it’s a lot like when traditional German beer lovers tasted a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA for the first time – vas eez dees? Zeez eez not Reinheitsgebot!!
One reason Stranahan’s might appeal to beer geeks is that it originally started out as beer. Up until 2009, Stranahan’s used beer from their neighbor, the Flying Dog Brewery in Denver, Colorado, and distilled it into whiskey. They have since started making their own wash (the wort of the whiskey world), but the malty beer influence is still apparent in the flavor.
And what a flavor it is. This stuff is smooth, with a gush of caramel, honey, and maple syrup up front, joined by a distinct malt character that is reminiscent of a Scottish ale. The finish begins with a spiciness, and then fades into traditional tobacco and leather notes as it warms your chest.
Stranahan’s is 47 proof, which is plenty strong, especially for beer geeks, but it’s smooth enough for my wife to drink it neat without puckering up into her “whiskey face.”
Don typically reviews whiskeys neat, with a cube of ice and with a splash, but the only way to have Stranahan’s is by itself in a glass. I tried adding a cube, and the smooth character quickly fell apart and the flavor became dominated by astringent tastes from the barrel. I didn’t try it with a splash, but I assume the results would be the same. Save your cubes, cowboy, and drink this one straight.
I could kill myself for not stopping in at Stranahan’s Distillery while Don and I were at GABF in Denver. If we go back next year, it’ll be on the short list of “must visit” places.
Thank goodness one of us knows enough about whiskey to put Stranahan’s on the list. 😉