Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Artisan Whiskey of the Year

January 21st, 2013

Corsair Triple Smoke, 40%, $45

Darek Bell and his partners at the Corsair Artisan distillery in Nashville have been swinging hard since they opened, rolling out one new whiskey after another. There are craft brewers who put out fewer beers in a year than Corsair does whiskeys. Rasputin, Nashville, Quinoa, Wry Moon, Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, Ryemageddon, 100% Rye…and our Artisan Whiskey of the Year, Triple Smoke.

triple_smoke[1]Bell will try just about anything when it comes to distilling: “Creativity is free,” he says. He’s written a book about it, Alt Whiskeys, that covers the gamut of that creativity: alternative grains, yeasts, hops, spices, and smoke, the whole bag of brewers’ tricks, really. Bell touches on several ways to get smoke into whiskey in the book, and uses multiple smoked grains in Triple Smoke.

Triple Smoke uses three batches of malt: one each smoked with peat, cherrywood, and beech. The peat is the Scottish tradition, the beechwood-smoking will be familiar to fans of smoky German rauchbier, and the cherry is just for fun.

They all come through in the whiskey. The nose is layered, with the rich island peat filling the middle, bacony beechwood curling out from underneath, and more delicate cherry top notes. After a quick rush of juicy malt, you’ll get the peat front and center again, the beech around the edges of the mouth, and the cherry floating above it. Imagine having a sip of Islay whisky with a smoky Bamberg-brewed chaser…and then a light pull on a fine pipe tobacco.

None of that would work if it weren’t for a solidly made malt whiskey providing the framework. That’s what makes Corsair more than a freak show of variety. Anyone can throw grains, smoke, hops, or spices in a fermenter or a still. It takes skill, restraint, and a good palate to make an award-winner out of it. —Lew Bryson

The American Whisky of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

11 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Artisan Whiskey of the Year”

  1. Luke says:

    Malted with wood-smoke?!

    Hats Off Gentlemen!!!

    Well Done!!!

  2. Vince says:

    I was just sipping on this last night and thinking how it was full of flavor and nuance. Excellent Choice!

  3. Erica says:

    You had me at peat. Sounds incredible, can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle.

  4. I loved this whiskey from the first time I had it. Everyone I have sold this to have come back to tell me how interesting it was. Not everyone was willing to make this their everyday dram, but almost all of them thought it was a whiskey worth always having on hand.

  5. Stevely says:

    Congratulations Corsair. Keep up the great work of Artisan distilling, innovation and helping put small distillers on the map.

  6. OudErnest says:

    Anyone know if it’s available in the northeast? preferably Connecticut or New York.

  7. Tim D says:

    Just for my own enlightenment – since I’m passionate about supporting artisan distillers, but tired of dropping big bucks on, frankly, mediocre whiskeys… What were some of the runners up or other products in contention (if any?). Corsair is a good one – and I’ve only had it once (not available in these parts), so not complaining about your selection, just wondering what other interesting bottles crossed your desk this year that I might want to seek out.

  8. Lew Bryson says:

    Well, Tim D., we don’t really do runners-up, but I don’t think you’ll be shocked to learn that there was at least one other Corsair whiskey on my short list. Otherwise, check the year’s ratings for the high-pointers. Picking a year’s best is getting harder all the time; competition is heating up, the bar is rising.

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