My first taste of white dog whiskey came in late July of this year. I went over to a friend’s house and he had just come back from a trip to Washington State. While there he dropped in on the folks at Woodenville Whiskey Company a micro distillery in Woodenville, Washington.
He picked up some interesting things, not the least of which was a used Rye barrel that he used to age some fantastic home brewed Russian Imperial Stout. I was fortunate enough to try this stout a couple times, once in process of aging, and the finished product which was fantastic.
So if you are a whiskey company and want to get product to market quickly how do you do it? There are now a couple of ways to accomplish this. First is use smaller barrels that can aid in quick aging of the spirit. Second, bottle and sell your white dog whiskey, and that is exactly what they have done.
Their Headlong White Dog Whiskey is a 86 proof white dog that comes directly from the still. There is no aging, no barreling, quite simply put, this is whiskey in its purest form. So how does it taste?
In a word…good. But in another word…strange. The good part is this, it had a really good flavor. Quite sweet up front then giving way to a big peppery hole in the middle and having a medium bodied, albeit a bit watery finish. It had decent heat and warmth to it, and I thought it might actually be more like a cordial than a hard liquor. The sweetness was definitely the corn I could taste in the mash, but I could also taste a peppery rye quality as well. When I say peppery it wasn’t overwhelming by any means, but had some good heat and that flavor from the rye.
The strange was that big hole in the middle. This hole is usually filled by the complexities that only barrel aging can bring. Flavors like vanilla, caramel, oak, leather and tobacco were missing…and frankly I wanted them there. So while white dog is good, I found it strangely lacking. In my head I was trying to fill that hole with all the wonders a barrel might do, and thinking this would make a great finished product. But, nonetheless I felt like it wasn’t done.
I understand why people like white dog, because it is good, but in my mind I was a bit confused by it. I’m not sure when I would drink it. Would it make a good night cap? Or a nice drink after a meal, maybe with a cigar? Perhaps, but I kept thinking if I was going to drink at those times, why not just have a good finished and complete whiskey. I encourage everyone to try white dog at least once, because it is a good experience, and who knows you might like it better than the finished product, but for my taste I’m gonna stick with good ol’ barrel aged whiskey.