American Craft Whisky & Bourbon

Happy New Year!!

As we kick off 2013, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on what has passed and what is to come – and one thing can be said for certain: it’s a great time to be a craft distiller in America.

Perhaps it’s personal preference talking, but I think it’s safe to extend that further, and say that it’s an even better time to be an American craft whisky distiller. Last time I checked, the Whisky Advocate lists close to a hundred small whisky producers in over thirty of the fifty states, and I’m sure there are even more that they may not know about. And we’re not just seeing expansion – we’re also seeing innovation. Whether it’s the surge in popularity of older styles, a renewed interest in un-aged whisky, or adventurous distillers taking a page out of the Scotch makers’ book and using finishing casks to enhance traditional American styles like Rye and Bourbon, there has never been a more exciting time to be a whisky drinker (or maker, I’ll wager) in America.

Whether it’s Rick Wasmund’s unique malting and barrel aging techniques, Rogue Spirit’s “Grow Your Own” approach to American Single malt, New Holland Brewing’s beer barrel-aging experiments, Finger Lakes Distilling’s use of local ingredients and finishing barrels, or Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s award-winning bourbon and home made barrel aging approach to corn whisky – Hunterdon has an awesome line-up of craft whisky from some true innovators in the field that should please just about any palate, whether you’re a neophyte or an expert.

So this holiday season, why not make yourself a New Year’s resolution to try something different? Take a break from your old standard dram, and check out what the newcomers to the whisky scene have to offer – I guarantee that they all have something worthwhile to show you – and you just might find a new favorite.

Check out our lineup below to learn more! Happy New Year, and Cheers! – Jeremiah Goldovitz, Hunterdon Spirits Manager

Finger Lakes Distilling Company

Located in Burdett, New York in the Finger Lakes wine region.
Founded in 2009 by Brian McKenzie and Thomas Earl McKenzie.

“In many ways, McKenzie is representative of the entire movement—someone with a personal connection to the drink’s history, a predisposition to individualism (“I don’t much care for government,” he told me), a love of local ingredients, and who is making something new and traditional at once. He distills his whiskey “the old-fashioned way,” he said, “using barley malt to convert the grain starch to sugar,” rather than employing commercial enzymes to break down the starches.” – Rebecca Barry – “Whiskey Rebellion” – Saveur Magazine, October 2011

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey
A very rich, double-pot distilled bourbon. A local, heirloom variety of corn makes up 70% of the mash bill. Aged in 10-gallon, new charred barrels and finished in local Chardonnay casks for a round, buttery finish.
“a smooth sipper with plenty of butterscotch and vanilla.” The Wall Street Journal, February 2012

McKenzie Rye Whiskey
Made from New York State grain and distilled using old-time techniques. Aged in new charred quarter casks and finished in sherry barrels from local wineries. Notes of orange peel, cardamom, mint and butterscotch. Exceptionally smooth.
“a few boutique distilleries are trying to usher the 20th century’s hippest whiskey into a new era, and McKenzie Rye is right there in the craft’s vanguard.” – Ian Reilly – Cocktail Enthusiast, October 2012
85.5 Points – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
Winner at the 2012 Good Food Awards – San Francisco, CA

Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey
A fine-tuned, true American corn whiskey made to honor one of the world’s greatest raceways. Fresh aroma of sweet summer corn. Crisp yet smooth on the palate with toasty caramelized notes and a meaty finish.
“A sharp nose reminiscent of a well-baked cornbread. The taste is sweet and fresh, and not surprisingly, reminiscent of sweet corn.” – Zak Stambor – “Corn Whiskey Makes a Comeback” – The Chicago Tribune, September 2012
92.5 Points “Brilliant” – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible

Berkshire Mountain Distillers

Located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Berkshire Mountain was founded in 2007 by Chris Weld and is the area’s first distillery since prohibition.

Berkshire Bourbon
Produced from 72% locally-grown corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley. Triple pot-distilled and aged in charred virgin American white oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Smooth and balanced with bright notes of spicy rye, vanilla, caramel and toasted nut.
91.5 Points – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
Gold Medal – Whiskey Life & Spirits
82 Points – Whisky Advocate

New England Corn Whiskey
Produced from 90% locally-grown corn and 10% malted barley. Aged on hand cut, milled and charred 70% oak and 30% cherrywood for one year. Full-bodied with earthy overtones of grass and cherry fruitwood. Very complex with lingering notes of smoke and fig on the finish.
Featured in The New York Times – December 2010

Copper Fox Distillery

Located in Sperryville, Virginia at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Founded in 2001 by Rick Wasmund, aka “the chuckling, mad professor of American whisky”Jim Murray, Whisky Bible.

Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky
Distilled in a custom built copper pot still, one batch at a time, aged for 14-18 months in used Bourbon barrels with additions of apple and oak wood chips and is non-chill filtered to preserve the complete flavor and essence of the barley grain.
91-93 Points – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (several batches reviewed)

Copper Fox Rye Whisky
A remarkable rye whisky made with an extraordinarily generous amount of the fruitwood-smoked malt. The mash bill is 2/3 Virginia rye and 1/3 Virginia Thoroughbred hand malted barley, kiln dried with apple wood and cherry smoke. Savory and complex with the characteristic Wasmund’s finish.
83 Points – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible

Distiller’s Art Barrel Kits
This kit includes two 750ml bottles of either the single malt or rye spirit, as well as a two-liter charred American White Oak mini barrel, and instructions on how to age your own whisky. Whether you’re a true whisky connoisseur, or an aspiring distiller, these kits are a great way to get a hands-on feel for the whisky making process.

New Holland Artisan Spirits

Founded in Holland, Michigan in 2005, New Holland is without a doubt leading the charge in the American craft distilling movement.

Beer Barrel Bourbon
Our newest addition to the New Holland spirits lineup is all the rage. If you love beer AND bourbon, you better pick up a bottle of this Bourbon aged for three months in Dragon’s Milk Stout beer barrels!
“…nicely sweet and impossibly smooth thanks to the beer’s influence, which sands down the whiskey’s rough edges with faint notes of roasted barley and chocolate.” – Josh Noel – “Barrels Do Triple Duty” -The Chicago Tribune, December 2012

“This is an imminently drinkable and delicious adult beverage, one that’s satisfying for whiskey aficionados as well as an excellent place to start for someone new to the ways of whiskey.” – Jim Galligan – “Bourbon, beer share barrels for a smooth spirit” – Today Food, November 2012

Rogue Spirits

Established in 2003. Led by Master distiller and professional chemist, John Couchot.

Oregon Single Malt Whiskey
Made with 100% GYO ‘Grow Your Own’ malt from Chatoe Rogue’s 257 acre farm. The barley is malted and roasted and a portion is hand-smoked using alder and maple chips. After distilling, the whiskey is placed in oak barrels where it ages near the coast of Oregon for three months.
2011 World Beverage Competition – Gold
2011 International Review of Spirits – Silver
2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition — Gold

Dead Guy Whiskey
Made with the same four grains that are used to make Dead Guy Ale. Delicately sweet with a rich malt complexity and a warm peppery finish.
2011 World Beverage Competition – Bronze
2011 International Review of Spirits – Gold
2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition—Bronze

Related Articles


About Author