Jump to content

Craft whiskey reaching maturity


Recommended Posts

Jazz June

Willett's distillate should have recently hit or be about to hit 9 years old, which got me thinking, what other craft distilleries have reached maturity (let's say 8+ years) on their distillate or soon will?

 

Wilderness Trail put out a 6 year age stated bourbon, but I'm not aware of any other higher age statements from craft outfits. I think the oncoming time period in which a lot of the craft distillate hits 8 to 10 years old will be very interesting. It will allow for a more apples to apples comparison with the mid-shelf products from the big guys. There has been discussion here on which craft distilleries people think are going to be able to compete at a high level, but I think an update on that conversation would also be fun. In addition to Willett, New Riff and Wilderness Trail appear to me to be on a good course. My other experiences with craft have been disappointing, but I have a few picks of craft stuff coming so maybe I'll be adding to that list soon.

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
WhiskeyBlender
23 hours ago, Jazz June said:

Willett's distillate should have recently hit or be about to hit 9 years old, which got me thinking, what other craft distilleries have reached maturity (let's say 8+ years) on their distillate or soon will?

 

Wilderness Trail put out a 6 year age stated bourbon, but I'm not aware of any other higher age statements from craft outfits. I think the oncoming time period in which a lot of the craft distillate hits 8 to 10 years old will be very interesting. It will allow for a more apples to apples comparison with the mid-shelf products from the big guys. There has been discussion here on which craft distilleries people think are going to be able to compete at a high level, but I think an update on that conversation would also be fun. In addition to Willett, New Riff and Wilderness Trail appear to me to be on a good course. My other experiences with craft have been disappointing, but I have a few picks of craft stuff coming so maybe I'll be adding to that list soon.

Hi @Jazz June, this is a great question. While I'm not sure about every craft distillery out there, I can tell you about some craft Bourbons and rye whiskeys that I've worked with personally that are currently in the 5+ year range, with a few being in the 8 to 10 year range. 

 

The first one that comes to mind would be the "Outryder" barrels from Wyoming Whiskey, which was first distilled by Steve Nally back in 2011. Just in case you aren't aware of that product, "Outryder" is a blend of rye Bourbon and a "rye-ish" whiskey with only 48% rye (Steve apparently wasn't very keen on being asked to distill a rye! 🤣) At any rate, I was just going through the remainder of this stock back in March in order to prepare for this fall's version of the product, and at that time those barrels would have been 9.4 years old. And although it isn't advertised, the stock for Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch, which is their wheated Bourbon, that I've been using for the past few years is in the 5.5 to 6.5 year old range. A few special Bourbon releases are in the 7 year range. 

 

The current Wyoming Whiskey Outryder that is out there (the 2020 release) was bottled when the barrels were 8.8 years old, if you want to try some. I will know for sure later this month when I'm back out to Wyoming, but I believe that they'll be having me pick some single barrels from this stock to release as a 10 year old Single Barrel. 

 

Another craft distillery that comes to mind that has "older" stock and with whom I also work is J. Henry & Sons in Dane, Wisconsin. They began in 2009, and all of their Bourbons have been at least 5 years old. They've also released several 7 and 8 year old single barrel expressions under their Patton Road label, and their annual Limited Edition series contains a fair amount of 8 year old in the blend. They still have a few Bourbon barrels that will turn 10 in October, and some that will turn 9 in July. The very oldest of the stock is a brandy from August 2008! Full discloser for J. Henry- they are seed farmers and have been growing their own grain since the mid 1940's, but they have 45th Parallel Distillery distill it for them. They then age the Bourbon in their own 120+ year old dairy barn. 

 

Yet another craft distillery that I work with is Iron Root Republic, and they released their first 5 year old Bourbon, distilled in 2015 and released in a black bottle under the name "Ichor." 

 

I'm sure that there are others that I'm not thinking of, or haven't worked with, so I don't know what all might be out there. At any rate, what a fun conversation, and thanks for bringing it up! 

 

Photo below: two craft whiskeys in the 8+ year category (WW, 8.8 years, J. Henry, 8 years). 

 

Cheers, 🥃

Nancy

 

 

IMG_6908.jpg

  • I like it 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
B.B. Babington

should have, would have, could have

 

in Virginia and North Carolina there are many distilleries that could have had aged material like Wasmunds (now under Copper Fox) or Catoctin Creek.  But these all sold stock at younger age.  Of course our old timers like Lairds and Bowman producing some aged material.  

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Skinsfan1311

New Riff comes to mind.  They're getting to release a 6-year rye.

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm actually seeing New Riff in my local grocery store.  Price is not crazy either, around $30.

  • I like it 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
Jazzhead

Woodinville's bourbon,  which is excellent, is at least five years old.   

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...
Rhettro

Sampled some six-year Peerless bourbon at their distillery in June that was absolutely incredible. I can’t even imagine what their stock tastes like in four to six more years. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
PhantomLamb
7 hours ago, Rhettro said:

Sampled some six-year Peerless bourbon at their distillery in June that was absolutely incredible. I can’t even imagine what their stock tastes like in four to six more years. 

Amen to that but my question is pricing. If they are asking $60-80 now, what will it be at 10/12? Unless it’s something truly special I can’t see myself shelling out $100+.

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Jazz June
On 8/2/2021 at 10:19 PM, PhantomLamb said:

Amen to that but my question is pricing. If they are asking $60-80 now, what will it be at 10/12? Unless it’s something truly special I can’t see myself shelling out $100+.

Unfortunately, I think this is going to continue to be a problem. Even if we put aside under-priced (at MSRP) for the specs things like Eagle Rare, most, if not all, of the majors put out high proof stuff aged in the 8 to 12 year range for $60 to $70. If the craft guys are already at or above this price point with their younger stuff, are they ever going to reach a competitive combination of quality and price? For example, I like Wilderness Trail, but their 6 year bonded bourbon seems to consistently run in the $80 to $90 range. It's tough to justify that when things like Russell's Reserve SiB and Old Forester 1920 are always on the shelf for $20 to $30 less. And I thought that 6 year bourbon was pretty good, but I do wonder (worry?) what the price points will be for the craft guys when they do reach "maturity." I'd be quite excited to try some 8 or 10 year old New Riff bourbon, but I'm not going to throw down $150 for a bottle of it.

 

I get that a giant distillery is essentially always going to beat the craft distillery on price, but I'm not sure how bad that margin will always be or has to be. This gets back to something I have written about on here before - the big distillers are not the soft targets that the macro brewers were. In fact, it almost seems to me like quite a few of the majors are willfully holding the MSRPs on many products down (obviously the free market steps in for states that are not controlled). And while quality may have come down some due to tight supply, I have a hard time believing that craft distillers could ever be so much better than macro distillers (as the craft brewers were) to justify a crazy price gap. Despite all the cleared shelves, there are plenty of available every day bourbons that have a pretty great QPR.

 

 

  • I like it 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Concerning the legacy distillers, I expect they will always be ahead in areas of economies of scale, and collective knowledge in production.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
geclbxf
13 hours ago, PaulO said:

Concerning the legacy distillers, I expect they will always be ahead in areas of economies of scale, and collective knowledge in production.  

As long as their is a crowd who will line up for the higher $$$$ higher aged craft, the craft distillers will be just fine.   If that crowd dissapates, or switches to other likes......

not sure what happens then.

 

I look at the New Riff 15 year old bottling they did of MGP in February - yes it was for charity restaurant relief, but 900 bottles sold out in minutes at $200 a throw.   Its a head shaker for juice no one had tasted, but I think it illustrates the up-side potential on pricing that does exist, at least for now.

 

Not everyone will make the rational decision that most here will that says there is better juice for a fraction of the cost that is readily available.   All depends on your own individual value proposition.

Link to post
Share on other sites
PhantomLamb
1 hour ago, geclbxf said:

As long as their is a crowd who will line up for the higher $$$$ higher aged craft, the craft distillers will be just fine.   If that crowd dissapates, or switches to other likes......

not sure what happens then.

 

I look at the New Riff 15 year old bottling they did of MGP in February - yes it was for charity restaurant relief, but 900 bottles sold out in minutes at $200 a throw.   Its a head shaker for juice no one had tasted, but I think it illustrates the up-side potential on pricing that does exist, at least for now.

 

Not everyone will make the rational decision that most here will that says there is better juice for a fraction of the cost that is readily available.   All depends on your own individual value proposition.

The only prop I will give craft whiskey is that it is "available" as opposed to the big guys limited stuff or anything BT.  That being said, I hate craft with a passion, I hate their business practices, the marketing lines of smaller barrels = faster aging with no side effects and all the wacky combinations they do with sherry, oloroso, etc.  They have to make their money back at some point but continuing to rob for an inferior product is a joke.

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not in the market for crafts, but I wouldn't lump them all together.

Somewhere on this site, Nancy explained in detail how many go wrong.

Small barrel aging or big price for too young product are non starters for me.

  • I like it 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Jazzhead

I think that the price  point for well-aged craft bourbon (4-plus years old) will settle into the $40 - $50 range,   where quality will translate into repeat sales.    I see a bright future for those craft distillers who mind the juice in the bottle.   The crazy prices I've seen tend to be for NDP producers who've paid a premium to purchase oddlot aged barrels.

Link to post
Share on other sites
WhiskeyBlender
On 8/7/2021 at 8:41 PM, PaulO said:

I'm not in the market for crafts, but I wouldn't lump them all together.

Somewhere on this site, Nancy explained in detail how many go wrong.

Small barrel aging or big price for too young product are non starters for me.

Many thanks @PaulO for stepping in to better explain that the issue with craft producers is more nuanced, and that not every producer engages in unsavory production and marketing practices. @PhantomLamb, I certainly understand and agree with your sentiments on not liking so-called "craft" producers who try to cheat time by using small barrels, etc., to accelerate the maturation of their whiskeys, use barrel finishing techniques to cover up fermentation and distillation faults, etc. I agree 100% that there is nothing "craft" about doing that. In fact, I would even go so far as to argue that the big traditional producers are more "craft" than the "craft" folks who resort to those type of tactics because the big guys care deeply about the quality of their products and aren't going to cut corners in their production processes. 

 

That said, I work as a freelance Master Blender and consultant to several "craft" producers domestically and internationally who I believe have done everything in their power to do things the right way. I'm not trying to promote their products on this forum, which would be wrong, but just want to point out that the folks I work with for the most part don't release anything under 5 years old (there are some exceptions given environmental conditions), who always use standard 53 gls barrels, usually where the staves have been yard seasoned anywhere between 18 to 24 months, etc.  I'm not even sure that the producers I work with necessarily would self-identify as "craft" anymore, since that has become such a loaded term. But however they self-identify, one thing I know for sure is that they care deeply about doing things the "right" way, and they also built it into their business plans to do so, unlike a lot of "craft" producers. In fact, I'm actually starting to work with some 10 to 11 year old stock by a few of these producers, and I must say that it is pretty darned tasty! 

 

I know that there are other so-called "craft" producers out there who I don't work with who also care deeply about doing things correctly and who are doing a good job of it. A few cases in point would be Wilderness Trail, Huber's Starlight Distillery, and New Riff. 

 

As @PaulO said, I did write a very detailed note on here somewhere long ago about how many go wrong, but unfortunately I don't know how to dig that up on the forum. At any rate, my point is that while I generally agree with you @PhantomLamb, it is a much more nuanced situation in practice, and there are some small producers out there who are actually putting out good quality Bourbons that don't taste like fresh oak sticks or pine resin, Playdough, buttered popcorn (diacetyl), baby vomit with parmesan cheese (butyric acid), sauerkraut (lactobacillus), and the whole litany of "crafty" production faults. 

 

Hope this helps add to the conversation.....

 

Cheers!

Nancy

Edited by WhiskeyBlender
  • I like it 12
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
Harry in WashDC

KO Distilling, Manassas, VA, just announced their 6th anniversary by releasing a "Distillers Reserve" bonded straight rye (at least 4 YO) and a Bare Knuckle High Rye (21% rye) at 6 years in both 90 proof and CS (120) versions.  $75 for the rye, $60 for the 90, and $73 for the CS.  While I liked their BK 90 and CS at 4YO well enough, the prices on these latest releases are comparably higher.  I have paused, I think, at least until I finish off those 4 YOs although I am curious about how they aged.  BK is their flagship brand and is widely available in VA ABC stores.  Maybe if it is offered at $5 off . . .

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.