*Sincere thanks to Stranahan’s and Exposure PR for the sample.
During a trip in 2016 to Denver’s Stranahan’s Distillery, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Rob Dietrich, the head distiller. Rob’s a character to be sure, and he’s a good storyteller. Over the years, he’s effectively been the face of the brand. He began working at Stranahan’s in the early days of the company, and when the distillery was sold to Proximo Spirits in 2010, he took over the lead role from the departing Jake Norris. In my write-up of that trip, I mentioned that, as much of a character as Rob is, he’s also pretty humble about it all – he sees himself more as a steward of the brand than a “master distiller.” That does not, however, mean that he hasn’t left his mark. When he became the head distiller, Stranahan’s had just the one yellow-labeled Original expression. Under Rob’s guidance, three other expressions have joined the range.
The first of these, Stranahan’s Snowflake, showcases the whiskey after it’s been finished in a variety of wine and spirits casks. It began life as a twice-a-year special release, and today is a coveted limited edition, sold at the distillery only on one day in December. Rob’s second creation, this Stranahan’s Diamond Peak Colorado Single Malt Whiskey, debuted in 2015 and from the beginning was slated to have much wider distribution. Compared to the Original, the Diamond Peak is sort of a distiller’s reserve/select kind of thing – this is Dietrich’s interpretation of the Stranahan ideal. The whiskeys used are at least four years old in contrast to the Original’s two-to-five year old age range. As with the Original, whiskeys used in the Diamond Peak have been matured in new American white oak barrels that have first been toasted, then charred to a #3 char.
The Nose: A fairly rich and fruity nose. Initially, there’s tart apples with caramel sauce, cola, clover honey, and a bit of overripe cantaloupe. Close behind, French vanilla ice cream, and semi-sweet chocolate chips in warm chocolate chip cookies. There’s just a hint of slightly sweet, slightly beery toasted grain. The oak is polished and integrated with warmed cinnamon, vanilla bean, subtle clove and faint peppercorns
The Palate: Really nice, creamy, oily mouthfeel. Much of the sweetness from the nose carries over – dark honey, vanilla syrup, cherry cola, and bruised apples. There’s lots more chocolate here, both milky and dark, with hints of nutty fudge and gingerbread. The oak is sturdy and strongly tannic with lots of cinnamon and vanilla bean, clove, candied ginger, and nutmeg.
The Finish: Lingering and more-ish. A bit of that cola-esque sweetness fades early, leaving cocoa nibs, grippy oak, ground pepper, and baking spices to fade more slowly.
Thoughts: Really good stuff. The Diamond Peak is my favorite Stranahan’s expression thanks to its balanced mix of dark sweetness and vibrant oak. This one progresses nicely, nose to finish, from a sweet fruity whiskey, to a spicy oaky one, with enough youthful complexity to keep things interesting along the way. While the average price of around $70-$75 is about $20 more than the yellow label Original, the Diamond Peak would be my pick if you’re looking to check out the brand. Recommended.