Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Artisan Whiskey of the Year”: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey (Batch #49), 47%, $55
In the U.S. alone, there are dozens of small artisan distillers now making whiskey. Many of these whiskeys are already on the market and are only a few years old—at most! Some show great potential, while others…well, let’s just say you should definitely “try before you buy.”
A few of these distillers are now making whiskeys that rival well-established scotch or bourbon distillers in quality. A great example of this is Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. The distillery began operations in 2004, using beer (wash) from the adjacent Flying Dog brewery, and then distilling it into whiskey. Batch #49, the whiskey we are honoring with this award, was made this way. (In 2009, the distillery moved to a larger facility, and they now make their own wash.)
Stranahan’s whiskey is sort of a hybrid. Being an all-malt product, it does resemble a single malt scotch in many ways, with a unique flair and a hint of bourbon character. (It is a “straight whiskey” aged in new charred oak barrels, similar to bourbon.) It shows nice maturity, considering it contains whiskey as young as two years old, but not older than five. It’s smooth, too, with layered sweetness (honeyed caramel, English toffee, maple syrup), tangerine, roasted nuts, and peppered with spice (warming cinnamon, glazed ginger). A good grip of tobacco and polished leather on the finish balances the sweetness that comes earlier. This is an example of the right way to do artisan distilling.
Bonus blog comment: The distillation date on the bottle states 10/15/07, which puts it at a little over two years old. I’m told there is older whiskey in here too up to five years of age, but it shows very nice maturity for its age range. My only issue is the price. I really like the packaging, but I would bet that many out there would prefer to see simpler packaging, and a lower price. [Although, judging by some of the comments I'm reading below, it looks like many places are selling this whiskey in the $40s, which is good news.]
Tomorrow’s Malt Advocate Whisky Award announcement: American Whiskey of the Year.