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Jazzhead

Brickway Nebraska Single Malt Whisky

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Jazzhead

My travels took me to Omaha,  Nebraska this week,  and this fun little city yielded a lasting dividend on Thursday night when I ran across this gem of a whisky.   In the Old Market on Jackson Street if I recall was an old-style brewery tasting room,  no real food but a bunch of taps, an enthusiastic bartender and a surprise -  an aged single malt whisky.  

"Brickway Honest American Whisky"  (as per the label) is Nebraska single malt,  aged for (according to the barkeep)  18 or so months in new charred oak barrels  (the label says its aged for "at least one year").    Scotch aged bourbon style, in other words.    

It's fantastic -  if you're a fan of Stranahan's this stuff is eminently worthy of your consideration.   It's  balanced and has a flavor profile (that I'd call graham-crackery)  that I associate with Stranny's.    It has an oily mouthfeel and nice harmony of sugars that reminds me of fresh baked cookies.   Later in the evening I had dinner at the Twisted Fork and sampled a Stranny's to validate the comparison,  and (IMO) it's uncanny. 

Try this if you can.   I don't know what greater aging would do,  but these guys sure didn't release this stuff before it's time -  it's a fully satisfying and drinkable dram at 18 months,  not scotch, not bourbon,  it's sui generis .     Nebraska single malt, well whaddaya know!        

   

 

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T Comp

Nice review and information Jazzhead. A burgeoning American whiskey scene is obviously happening there which is cool to see.  Cut Spike and Patriarch are two other Nebraska whiskey distillers out of Omaha's neighboring La Vista, Nebraska.

Sku had a nice write up on American malt whiskey in general and reviewed Cut Spike which made it out of Nebraska and was being sold by K & L.

Patriarch is more conflicted than Brickway and Cut Spike (and also appear not associated with a brewery). Best I can tell they are peddling sourced 6 year bourbon but now have their own distilled 16 month old whiskey (not a malt) which they describe as "prohibition style" <_<  and "distilled from 100 % grain, 18% Rye".

Both Nebraska in 2007 and Iowa in 2010 adopted laws which helped the creation of micro-distilleries by allowing them to sell directly to customers. 

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2014/08/cut-spike-american-scotch-in-nebraska.html

 

 

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Jazzhead

Thanks for the info,  T Comp -  it's interesting that two Nebraska distillers are taking a similar route -  malt whiskey aged bourbon-style.    Closer to home,  I've got a bottle of  287 Single Malt from Stilltheone Distillery in Port Chester,  NY.    It's good,  and tasting it next to the Brickway,  I can see the family resemblance,  but the Brickway is more flavorful and balanced.   The 287 needs more againg, the Brickway really doesn't -  it' just damn good whisky,  craft or otherwise. 

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Jazzhead

Well, it's been a year since this review and I've been on a bit of an American craft whiskey walkabout,  and I pulled this bottle again this morning just as the sun comes up over Ocean City, New Jersey.   I've had some good craft whiskies in the past year (Ransom Rye-Barley-Wheat,  an awkward name but a superb concoction) and others not so good (no names,  I only contribute praise on the internet)  but Brickway's still my favorite.  

 

The problem, of course, with craft whiskies is the lack of relative aging,  which contributes a patina of roughness and burn that sometimes distracts from the care taken in the distilling, cutting and blending.    Brickway has achieved a balance like few others.  I continue to feel the closest comp is Stranny's but this beats it,  with a beautiful soft oiliness surrounding the baked cookies vibe.

 

 

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Jazzhead

Three years later,  I made it back to Omaha and the Brickway distillery this week.    I'm pleased to report that the whiskey is as good as I remember it,  and still ranks as one of the best examples of "American single malt" I've ever had.    This adheres to what I'd call a purest definition of the term - distilled from 100% malted barley (like a single malt scotch) but aged American-style in new charred oak barrels with no gimmick finish.     In this case,  30-gallon barrels to facilitate the aging,  but Brickway displays none of the harshness I find in similar tipples.    Just as I remembered it, it is balanced and toffee-ish,  with a taste more like Stranahan's  than  (conventionally finished) Westland or Del Bac.   At $45 a bottle,  the price is better than any of those comparison malts.    It's packaged unpretentiously Japanese-style,  in fat stubby bottles topped with a screwcap.  

 

They've added a bourbon to their lineup,  but unlike the single malt they don't distill it themselves.     I was told it is MGP high-rye bourbon (51% corn, 35-plus % rye) aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels,  then finished for an additional year or so in Brickway's used cooperage (presumably the barrels that had previously aged the single malt.)     I tried it and liked it,  and thought I detected a family resemblance with the single malt when I sampled them side by side, although that may have been the result of the enjoyable time I had speaking to the bartenders.     But both single malt and bourbon were balanced,  gentle and displayed that characteristic the Budweiser has always touted - drinkability.     I bought a bottle of both the single malt and the bourbon to bring home with me,   and I predict they will be both be goners before too long.   

 

Here's a link to their website for those who may be interested - https://www.drinkbrickway.com/     And if you're ever in Omaha,  make sure you treat yourself to the whiskey-glazed steaks at the Drover.  

Edited by Jazzhead

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