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Stranahan's Colorado

Crooning Sweetness

0 1590

@OJKReview by @OJK

19th Jul 2010

0

  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    90

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Nose, taste, finish and balance are graded out of 2.5 each:

Nose: Well this is of course a rarity, an american single malt, yet there is still a lot of bourbon on the nose. That said, there is the unmistakable smell of the malt, and it's a beautifully sweet and smooth aroma, and not without its hint of smoke. There's something about it that reminds of me of being in wood-shop as a child at school, and smelling freshly sanded wood. That and granny-smith apples covered in beeswax. 2.0

Taste: Very nimble and floating on the tongue. The apple is the first to make its mark, and it's tantalisingly crisp and juicy. Then there are lashings of vanilla ice-cream, followed by buttery spice. Sumptuous. 2.5

Finish: The malt comes back out on the finish, but is then quickly dominated by an all-absorbing swathe of red liquorice. One generally tends to assume that if a whisky is purely sweet, that it can't be that complex, however the variety in sweet flavours and their patience in allowing each to have their say is staggering. And I may be doing it a disservice to not mention the subtle spice that accompanies it smoothly and consistently all the way, never outshining the sweetness, and if anything just giving it a point of reference from which it can work its magic. 2.5

Balance: Immense. This was batch number 35, and there's a comment written on the label by the distiller, and it says "LIstening to Willie Dixon". It's an eccentric touch, and as much as I want to avoid making the obvious comparison to music, I just can't help it. There truly is a smooth crooning quality to this whisky. There is the velvety sweet voice, with the touch of rough spice that suggests a life that's been lived. And then of course the melody, sweet lilting notes that all string together to form a tune that you just can't help humming. 2.0

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15 comments

@quirkzoo
quirkzoo commented

Great review. I recently visited the distillery but have yet to review the bottle I purchased. I have to agree with you on everything you said and I would add that the whisky is made from 100% locally sourced malted barley. This for me is what makes the whisky distinct. I feel like the malt backbone rides all the way through from nose to finish and gives a structure upon which the rest of the whisky builds.

9 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

Visiting the distillery must have been fantastic! What batch was the bottle that you purchased? I think you're very much right about the malt, it's unmistakably present throughout, although totally different from what you would expect from a scotch. Makes it a fascinating dram, a bit like a beautiful malt-bourbon lovechild. Would be interested in seeing what flavours would come through were a scotch distillery to import some of that colorado malted barley.

9 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

Nice review! I finally had the chance to sample this in New York last week and enjoyed it. It is quite distinct, and very pleasant. I had it in the wrong glass (a rocks glass), though, and couldn't really glean the nose as well as I would have liked. I'll have to try it again under more optimal circumstances!

9 years ago 0

@AboutChoice
AboutChoice commented

Stranahan's is clearly unique and innovative. To add a few more morsels of info, I have gleaned that it is made from 100% kiln-roasted barley, and aged for at least 2 years, in heavily charred new oak barrels. The aging occurs in a temperature and humidity-controlled room, which accelerates the process. So it does seem that Stranahan's could best be classified with Irish or Scotch.

My bottle is from Detroit, and quite expensive (over 50 USD); it has no batch no, and I could not read the comments.

I felt that indeed the experience was unique, engaging and commanding. Actually, I do not know what malt is supposed to taste like, but from the comments above, maybe I do now :-) I really could not place the taste, and after comparing to a few high-end brandies, my opinion is that Stranahan's tastes like a dried-fruity brandy ... somewhat similar to Armenian brandies.

My current feeling is that Stranahan's is quite novel, and while it would be wonderful diversion now and then, but I'm not sure that it would become a keeper for me.

9 years ago 0

@quirkzoo
quirkzoo commented

The distillery was great. The tour was given by one of the distillers and he was so incredibly laid back he pretty much just walked us through a day of work for him.

I thought the temperature and humidity controlled room was rather odd as it seams the "uniqueness" of the whisky is taken away with this level of control but for them the distinctiveness of their whisky is in their quality locally sourced ingredients and in their very exacting distilling methods. They have two custom made pot/column stills (they are a hybrid of the two styles and incorporate the best elements of each).

Interestingly the distiller himself prefers to take his Stranahan's with a few drops of water. The water helped to smooth out the flavors which can be a little sharp when taken neat.

I would agree with AboutChoice that the price point seams high for the product and I think they are trying to create a market for high end "Colorado Straight Whiskey" as they call it.

One last cool note. They are a really small distillery and when they bottle (which they do every other month or so) they have a list of volunteers and you come in on a Saturday and take your place in line and have a job for the day (Sticking labels, placing corks etc.) They give you beer for the day and a bottle to take home for your hard work. I put my email on the list but they haven't contacted me yet. I will definitely post something up if they do.

9 years ago 0

@CharlieDavis
CharlieDavis commented

I bottle for Stranahan's a lot. #35 was a great batch. More recent batches--we're up to #59 at the moment--are spicier, and more complex; whether you like that would be personal. And, believe me or not, it's up to you--the Willie Dixon was my idea : )

12 to 24 bottles go into a batch, ages ranging from 2 to 5 years. Young Stranahan's--I mean like 6 months, because this whiskey matures very rapidly--is delicious but simple; tastes like an Orange CreamScicle. 5 year old Stranahan's is outrageously complex, but astringent and profoundly oaky. They could just pick a place of compromise--say, 3 years, 6 months--but it would be exactly that: a compromise. Instead, brilliantly I think, they marry together a batch with carefully selected amounts of a variety of ages, thereby preserving the creaminess of the younger and the spicy complexity of the older.

I usually add a drop or two of water, myself; it seems to open up the complexity, although I'll grant you that this comes at the cost of the mouth-feel, which is gloriously firm and rich taken neat.

Slainte.

Charlie

9 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

Sounds brilliant! Unfortunately, now I get to wait until some of this stuff appears in Australia... :p

9 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

@Charlie-Davis - I am definitely going to believe you! I can tell you as well it will make it even more enjoyable the next time I sit down with the bottle for a dram or two. I always find I get personally attached to a good whisky, a little like a good book or a song you love, and little unique touches like that make it all the more so. Also I wasn't aware that only 12 to 24 bottles go into each batch, that makes it all the more special I have to say.

@quirkzoo - That's fantastic that they do that, if I lived nearby (sadly London is a little far!) I would be signing up as well. The idea of sipping beer while bottling whisky over in the Colorado Rockies sounds like total bliss compared to catching the crammed tube in the morning over here. If they call you up definitely let us know so you can share the experience! Will have to try and visit the distillery one day next time I'm over in america, sounds like a very cool place.

@dbk - Thanks a lot! And I would definitely recommend trying it again in a proper nosing glass, you get the most amazing overview of the unique malt-bourbon aromas that way. That said, the bottle design and general Colorado Rockies feel to it suggests more of a cowboy whisky, so perhaps a rocks glass goes well with the rustic image!

@AboutChoice - very interesting background info, thanks a lot for that. I would agree that it's quite expensive for what it is, however the background to it (both the unique way it is made, as well as the eccentricity with which they distill and sell it) makes it worth paying in my opinion as it's such a one-off. I guess at the same time if this style of whisky grows in popularity then it will probably start to become less of a one-off, and then I think hopefully we'll start to find cheaper varieties on the market.

@jdcook - Definitely worth the wait! The bottle and general cowboy image of Stranahan's reminds me a little of that Bakery Hill whisky you guys have out there, which I can never seem to find here in Europe!

9 years ago 0

@CharlieDavis
CharlieDavis commented

Aw, jeez--there are 12 to 24 BARRELS in a batch, not bottles. Sorry. 3000 bottles or so.

That's still a very small batch by industry standards; I think most small batch arrangements are more like 300 barrels to a batch. That's why each batch of Stranahan's is a little different. They all nose and taste like Stranahan's, but if you have them side by side, the differences are quite apparent. Like I said: yours, #35, was a great batch; but I've got every single batch from #24 onward, both collected/unopened, and an open bottle for drinking. There isn't a bad batch in the lot.

That Willie Dixon label is in all probability my handwriting. It's gratifying to know someone loves that bottle as much as I loved bottling it.

Slainte!

Ch

9 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

Aha - I thought 12-24 bottles was a little extreme! £50+ was starting to look quite cheap for my bottle! Still, a very small batch nonetheless. And amazing you have all those bottles from each batch - would you recommend any particular batch as your favourite?

My particular bottle was distilled on the 14th of September 06, by Jake N (couldn't make out the rest of the last name - no offence to handwriting!!).

All I can say is congrats and many thanks for your fine work in bottling this liquid gold! It's definitely found a loving home!

9 years ago 0

@jeanluc
jeanluc commented

Nice thread. This is definitely going on my wishlist...

9 years ago 0

@CharlieDavis
CharlieDavis commented

@OJK: Jake Norris is Stranahan's Head Distiller, and my good friend. IMHO the guy is a savante; he brilliantly marries these batches together, using his nose and his experience, and has never failed to make a fabulous batch. (He also grows the best tomatoes I've ever eaten, bakes magical bread, and grills killer BBQ.)

Sometimes, as we bottle, he signs and we the bottlers write the comments; that's how my handwriting is likely to be on the bottle--a kind of scribbling spiky script.

Since folks are interested, a few more points of interest: Stranahan's is distilled in a one-of-a-kind pot-column still made by Vendome Copper Works in Louisville, Ky. They are world standard still makers, and we only asked for one still initially, having a second larger still built after the whiskey started showing signs of commercial success. I've heard Jake tell tour groups that it was like asking Lambroghini to build you a lawnmower (we're kinda small).

A bit more on the rationale to mature the whiskey in a temp and humnidity controlled envorinment: we all know what happens to trees in winter; the drop their leaves, pull back their sap, and wait for spring. Twigs are brittle. The tree is dormant. Well, wood does the same thing after it's made into a barrel. In that event, the barrels are referred to as "asleep".

Our rackhouse simulates the perfect summer day, 24/7/365. We're small enough to be able to pull that off; our entire stash of maturing whiskey is about as many barrels as Jim Beam makes in 3 hours (or so I've been told). So, the barrels are always awake. And, as opposed to scotch whiskies, the spirit is aged in new barrels. So, a comparison might be that the traditional method of racking barrels/casks in an uncontrolled environment in a used barrel might be like putting a used tea bag in cold water; that is to say, you might make excellent tea, but it might take a lot longer.

So, in sumnmary; we are 100 percent malted barley, like a scotch single malt. We are distilled in a pot-column still, combining the technologies of bourbon-makers and single-malt makers. We are aged in new american oak, like bourbon, in a special environment. So this is an entirely new style of whiskey: Colorado Whiskey.

I've had a bunch of whiskies, and you can see from my Cabinet that I amd not a novice, although I won't claim expert status; for what it's worth, this is the best whisk(e)y I've found, anywhere.

Charlie

9 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

Hey Charlie, thanks so much for all the insight into the making of the whisky, it's not often you get that kind of privilege. Fascinating the description of keeping the wood "alive" during maturation, in first fill casks. It makes you wonder why everyone doesn't do it that way. I guess it's an expensive process, and hence even though Stranahan's is quite young in whisky years, it's still more expensive than a lot of scotch single malts that have been maturing for 16 years+. That said, you can't always put a price on quality on innovation.

If I ever get round to coming over to Colorado to visit the distillery, I'll drop you a note. Maybe you can introduce me to Jake and we can drink whisky over one of his killer bbq's! In the meantime I'll be drinking the stranahan's, listening to Willie Dixon.

9 years ago 0

@CharlieDavis
CharlieDavis commented

That'd be great. Standing by.

Well, there might be an argument for allowing whisk(e)y to mature the traditional way; take rising bread for example. Mass bread bakeries warm the bread dough to rise it faster and more consistently, but at the expense of flavor, crumb and texture; a serious baker--one who'd bother with a brick oven--will slow-rise his/her dough to impart more flavor to the bread. A similar argument could be made re: the whisk(e)y. Perhaps taking a long time adds some measure of refinement; at least that argument could be made.

Whether there would be merit to that argument I can't say. For my money, Jake and his distillers consistently make the best whiskey I've ever sampled. I know others will disagree; that's fine of course. I think Stranahan's is the missing link between single-malt scotch and bourbon.

Is it the only whiskey I love? God, no! Four Roses Small Batch--ahh... Pendaryn Welsh Whisky--mmm. Laphroaig Quarter Cask--holy cow, how do they do that? Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof Bottled in Bond: dear Lord, can this really only cost $15 a bottle? GlenFarclas 105--thanks, George, what would I do without your 105? Ardmore; JW Black; HP 18; Wathen's; the list is endless.

In the end, it's still Stranahan's that fills my senses with no distractions--no off-notes, no musty flavors, no sicky sweetness, no furry tongue on the finish...it comes across like a symphony playing gritty down-home blues: complex and dirty, gutsy and classy, sophisticated and intense.

Ch

9 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

Well, I have to say it's been a really stimulating discussion. Thanks again for all the insight. Really nicely written last post there as well, amen to the love of whisky. Pass on my regards to Jake and the other distillers, take care

9 years ago 0

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