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It has many names; white lightning, white dog, white whiskey, and light whiskey amongst others. This growing category of spirits in the United States has ties to moonshine whiskey. Moonshine simply refers to the illegal booze that was bootlegged across the southeast region of the United States by renegades and mountain men driving souped up cars that could outrun the police. This spurned the creation of American auto racing in the form of NASCAR, which began simply as a way for moonshiners to see who owned the faster car.

white whiskeys are being embraced by adventurous consumers

Alas, the moonshine era (for the most part) is long past. Today the growth in this category can be credited to the craft or micro whiskey movement in the United States. The business model du jour for a young startup whiskey company is to generate cash flow quickly by releasing un-aged or lightly aged whiskey right off the still. Once considered too unrefined or crude to be consumed with little or no barrel aging, white whiskeys are being embraced by adventurous consumers looking to try new spirits for cocktails or for neat consumption.

Let’s put this into context for a moment. Popular spirits such as rum and tequila have Blanco or white counterparts offered along with aged products. Why shouldn't whiskey? Through the availability of finer raw materials, better distillation practices, and a commitment to small batch quality, white whiskeys can be a tasty alternative to longer aged whiskeys. It also provides an educational experience for whiskey lovers to see the differences between aged and lightly (or not) aged spirits.

Here are three such white whiskeys worthy of your time and attention if you can find them.

Buffalo Trace White Dog, Mash Bill #1, 62.5% abv.

Buffalo Trace’s #1 mash bill is the recipe used for the bourbon that bears the distillery’s name as well as flagship products such as George T. Stagg and Eagle Rare. This un-aged spirit is marked with a fantastic balance. The nose is bright, full of corn, a dry grain quality, and a rock candy aroma of sweetness. On the palate there is corn syrup sweetness at first that gives way to sour corn, and prickly rye dryness. The finish is dry and crisp with a lingering sweetness.

Low Gap Whiskey, 42.7% abv.

Craft Distillers, a small, boutique brandy distillery operates in the Germain-Robin facilities in Mendocino County, California. The distillery’s Low Gap Whiskey is a 100 per cent wheat whiskey and one of the most elegant and complex un-aged whiskeys available. The aromas and flavours are full of ripe orchard fruit (pear and apple), whole wheat cracker, buttered biscuit, and a light peppery spice.

High West Silver Western Oat Whiskey, 40% abv.

High West Silver Oat is actually a whiskey. Unlike the other two mentioned above, which are not aged at all, High West actually “ages” this whiskey for five minutes or so. This allows it to be considered a legal whiskey by American regulations. The nose is soft with marshmallow, banana, and dry hay - sweet but restrained.  On the palate, flavors of bubble gum, apple, and taffy hold back a licorice-like spice.  The finish is clean, crisp, and fruity.


Victor wrote:

Yes, Jason, some of us are a lot more adventurous about tolerating the sour flavours than others. This is a world well worth exploring, and quite educational. It does require a bit of a shift in mindset to accept it fully, however. Of the three you have mentioned I have reviewed two and commented upon the third. That Low Gap has some especially unusual flavours: the MALTED Bavarian wheat gives it some nuances I have only encountered in the malted rye of Old Potrero 18th Century.

04 November 2011 17:09

Mantisking wrote:

I had Bully Boy's White Whiskey the other night at a tasting. Very interesting and not at all what I expected. Very light, smooth, and full of banana flavors.

I do wish they'd toss some in a barrel for a little while just to see what comes out though.

04 November 2011 18:13

Victor wrote:

...and, I think that we are talking more, unaged whisk(e)y than white whisk(e)y on this page. I love Balcones True Blue unaged blue corn whiskey, which is far from white...and then there is also the White Owl Canadian Whisky which is aged for years but which has the color removed to make it "white".

04 November 2011 18:28

JasonPyle wrote:

Victor, I concur on Low Gap - very unique.

Cheers to you guys!

04 November 2011 20:28

lsypalet wrote:

In the last year in Seattle there have been at least a dozen new distilleries. Amazing time!

04 November 2011 20:54

JasonPyle wrote:

Indeed Isypalet. Each week it seems more open. I'm sure some will fall on hard times, but it's fun to watch those that are making great stuff succeed.

05 November 2011 04:40

Mantisking wrote:

I tried some of the BT White Dog last night as part of a whisky flight. Oooof. It packs a kick, and I'm not really a fan of rye either. So I think I'll be passing on this one in the future.

26 November 2011 17:38

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Dominic Roskrow

About the editor

Dominic Roskrow is the former Editor of Whisky Magazine and now his own freelance business. In addition to writing The World Whisky Review he edits Whiskeria for the Whisky Shop chain, runs the online W Club, and covers world whisky for The Whisky Advocate. He is a director of The Whisky Tasting Club and has written for titles including the Times, Daily Telegraph and Spectator in the UK and The Daily in america. His recent books include 1001 Whiskies To Try Before You Die and The Whisky Opus which was published in September 2012.

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