I’ve never been to Colorado. Yes, I realize this is a failing of mine, some (mostly Coloradans) would consider this a major character flaw. Just know that I have not ignored your high altitude state on purpose. Crap, wait…I just remembered that I have been to Colorado, twice…layovers in the Denver airport. Both visits sucked, one time I had a really boring salad from a Wolfgang Puck, the other time I could not for the life of me find my gate. In any case, I in no way feel that these airport tours were in any way representational of the state. One day I’ll get there and probably not want to leave. Being a flatlander from Wisconsin, mountains make me a little frantic and make me want to bike, hike, ski, nap over every square inch of them.
Having just received a bottle of Stranahans Colorado Whiskey from my girl (let’s call her Sherry Butts) for my birthday, I now have another reason to stop unintentionally avoiding Colorado. Stranahan’s, located in Denver, is Colorado’s first and possibly only microdistillery and makes their whiskey from 80% Colorado Rockies grown barley and 20% Rocky Mountain region grown barley. The water is predictably Rocky Mountain stream water filtered through charcoal. Their whiskies are aged for a minimum of two years and stored in warehouses that are controlled to not get too cold in the winter but are allowed to get pretty warm in the summer, which probably speeds up the maturation process. Each bottling is released as its own batch, my bottle being from Batch #49 which was distilled on October 15, 2007 while apparently listening to Sam Bush (what do I know, that’s what it said on the bottle).
The Nose: Banana split, perhaps a little baked banana with vanilla bean, but mostly the fist whiff is ripe banana with smooth cocoa notes. There are some bright cinnamon notes as well right before things get interesting. It has a bourbon-y nose in that it’s very sweet, round and rich but there’s a very refreshed, bright, “green” quality as well. After that initial banana split impression, more subtle vegetal tones come out. The nose is at once very familiar yet pleasingly different and unique.
The Palate: The familiar bourbon tones make an early, sweet appearance but then the vegetal woody notes take center stage. There’s green leaf, eucalyptus, and a good dose of weed, specifically…weed, as in dope…dank, dusky, dope. Make no mistake, though, all this green-ness is there in a good way. I’ve tasted older whiskies than this that taste younger than this. You can taste the youth but in a smooth balanced way, no rough edges…how the hell did they do that? There’s a spiced dryness, but also a real mouth-watering acidity. a nice bitter/sweet balance
The Finish: Mostly shortish, that bitter, dusky, drying quality lingers pleasantly.
Thoughts: Wow. Seriously wow. Well made, really interesting stuff. I take my hat off to anyone jumping into the craft distilling thing, small operations aiming to incorporate the local terroir into their mix, and I think Stranahan’s has done it very well. There are moments that are reminiscent of bourbon and of other american whiskies (St. George Single Malt comes to mind) but the wonderful earthy green quality really sets this apart. It’s mature far beyond its years, complex in a truly unique way, balanced, nuanced and in a way, very evocative of where (I imagine) it came from.