American craft whiskies – particularly bourbons – have been cropping up everywhere in the last five years. It seems like every week I read about a previously-unknown distillery in some little town that has won an award or launched a national release of its whiskey. Luckily for these craft producers, most American whiskey can be ready to bottle in as little as a year or two. This is in contrast to scotch, which takes approximately ten years in barrel to mature enough for release. Of course, the stills can also be used to make and sell clear spirits like gin, white rum, and vodka to pay the bills. That makes the barrier to entry a lot lower for new enterprises in the US – expect to see even more of these small producers going big time in the near future.
Peach Street Distillers from Palisade, Colorado, makes a Colorado Straight Bourbon (a legal designation – the first of its kind in Colorado) aged at least 2 years in new oak. Unlike most modern brown spirits, Peach Street distills its mash ONCE before racking into oak. Presumably, this makes for a lower barrel-entry strength while retaining some extra character from the original mash. The mash is made from 60% locally-grown sweet corn, 20% rye, and 20% double-row unmalted barley. Barley catalyzes the fermentation of the other ingredients and is commonly added to corn-based whiskes, although not usually in this high proportion. Peach Street sticks to its craft sensibilities, making batches of less than 200 barrels each.
Nose: Cinnamon red hots, SPICY. A bit hot in the nose for 46%. Anise seed, spiced orange peel, caraway, baked apples.
Palate: Hot, young and excitable. Spices again. Some oak. Potently flavored. Bright – an enthusiastic newcomer.
Finish: Medium long. Taffy? Black licorice abounds. Some nice mild barrel tannins.
With Water: Adds some grass on the nose, and fresh raw corn. Makes the palate sweeter.
Overall: Well, it’s quite good. It has the air of an excited young pupppy, full of life and excitement and bounding with energy, as opposed to some older bourbons which are like plodding old hounds, wise in their years and contemplative. Unfortunately, young craft whiskey comes at a price. $63 for a 2 year-old bourbon? That’s the kind of price I might pay after touring the distillery and bringing home a souvenir bottle… but it’s unlikely to become a staple bourbon in my house with such a pricetag.