In place of the usual beer review this week is a review of another alcoholic beverage, whiskey. While not strictly followed the “liquor before beer” rule for this column, a little moderation and diversity never hurt.
A tour of Stranahan’s downtown distillery can teach a whiskey fan a lot about the distilling process. Whiskey begins its life much like beer, with malted barley, water, and yeast combining together to make the “wash.” Stranahan’s then separates the alcohol out of the wash with two special copper stills, creating a mostly clear and neutral high-proof spirit. After aging for two to five years in charred oak barrels to impart flavor and color, mineral water is added to bring the alcohol content down to drinkable levels and the finished whiskey is bottled. If given the opportunity, a visit to the distillery is highly suggest, book a tour at www.stranahans.com.
Stranahan’s is intentionally made a little stronger than most whiskeys with 47% alcohol. They suggest adding a few drops of water or some ice to your glass. This reduces the alcohol’s impact slightly and mixes up the flavors nicely. While it smells overwhelmingly of alcohol, there is also a subtle fruity scent and a hint of fresh-baked bread. The first taste is similarly overwhelmed by alcohol, along with a bitterness similar to strong black tea. More nuanced flavors come through eventually with a slight toasty, caramel sweetness reminiscent of light pipe tobacco and vanilla. Stranahan’s claim that their unique distilling process combines the best aspects of both scotch and bourbon. This is evident in the overall flavor which begins with the smooth, round, and complex qualities of Scotch and ends with the spicy and bold punch of bourbon.
At about $50 to $60 per bottle, Stranahan’s is definitely not an everyday whiskey and should be saved for more special occasions, as restraint allows. Speaking of special occasions, it is never too early to start dropping hints for Christmas presents.
Although it’s not quite fair to score whiskey on the same scale as beer, Stranahan’s gets an A grade. It’s not always the preferred beverage, but it comes very close to perfection.