...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Single Malt Report: Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, batch 93

Another sample from WhiskyJoe!
Yes 'm.  I'm the third blogger to review a Stranahan's batch in a week's time.

Bourbonguy reviewed batch 95
Smokypeat reviewed batch 116
Smokypeat liked his, Bourbonguy not so much.

There was a lot of great word of mouth (courtesy of Jim Murray and Whisky Advocate) about Stranahan's a few years ago, but the whiskey wasn't being sold in California.  In fact, back then my easiest method to buy it was via European retailers, which is silly.  Anyway, my brother-in-law lives near Boulder and I've been looking forward to visiting the distillery, and maybe even purchasing a bottle in the meantime.  But that would be a blind purchase, something I'm not crazy about doing, even to support a small business...

...but wait, it's no longer a just small business.  In 2010, Stranahan's was purchased by Proximo Spirits, the folks who also sling Cuervo, Three Olives, Ron Matusalem, Kraken, Boodles, 1800, Hanger 1, and more.  According to Wikuhpeediuh, Proximo increased Stranahan's production by 150% after their takeover.  The actual production quantity remains small because it's a small distillery.  So it's still micro, though its ownership is macro.

The batch I'm reviewing today was bottled in August 2010, four months before the takeover.  I'm limiting my intro here because of the plentitude of notes...

Distillery: Stranahan's
Ownership: Proximo Spirits
Region: Denver, CO, USA
Type: Single Malt
Batch: 93
Bottled: 8/15/10
Age: a range of 2 to 5 year old whiskies, thus two years old
Mashbill: four types of Colorado barley
Maturation: new American oak
Alcohol by volume: 47%

I opened my sample (obtained via a swap with WhiskyJoe) a couple days ago with quite some optimism.  But I was immediately struck by a number of issues in the whiskey that turned me off.  Some air helped things out...

Day 1 (sampled neatly) --

The color is a medium gold.  Acetate hits first in the nose, reminding me of budget-priced high-grain Irish blends.  Then comes high-VOC paint, banana peels, and toffee.  Had to give it ten minutes of air before I could continue.  Then came new oak char.  Then orange peels, vanilla, cotton candy, angel food cake, and walnuts.  The toffee returns, but with a floral note in tow.  Bananas show in the palate as well.  It's very sugary, but grows sourer and tangier with time.  Notes of vanilla merengue, Peeps, caramel, and Mallow Mars-type "marshmallow" filling.  The long finish brings with it barrel char, vanilla beans, and banana candy.

I was very thankful that some air opened up the nose.  The palate was still vague and plain.  And the banana notes were a big turnoff.  I have serious issues with banana candy.  But, my wife had a sip and she thought it was okay.  So I saved the second half of the sample for the next day:

Day 2 --

Ah, the acetate thing is softer in the nose, where it's more like glue.  It's quiet though.  Maltier notes are showing up now.  It's still very candied -- cotton candy and cinnamon candy.  There's some baking spices, caramel, toffee, and floral notes.  Lots of sweetness in the palate again, sometimes granulated sugar, sometimes Nutrasweet.  There's some pepper and tangy lemons; toasted coconut meets a light bitterness.  After some time, carpet and cardboard notes arise.  The finish is remarkably long, tangy and very peppery.  No banana candy!

The nose is still sugary.  Whipped cream, creamsicles, caramel, and cinnamon.  But be careful with the water because it nearly kills this one off.  The palate has a nice bitterness to it, met by walnuts, toasty oak, and citric acid.  The finish has been silenced.  Now it's mostly acid and tannins.

The extra air and oxygen space in the sample bottle improved things considerably.  I do not recommend water with this batch, especially because it kills off the best part: the finish.

In the comment section of Smokypeat's review, Rob Dietrich provided some info about the whiskey.  He mentions that there's a mix of 2, 3, 4, and 5 year old barrels within.  My skills are not so sharp as to discern the difference between 2 and 3 year old stuff.  But, two and five?  Maybe.  I'll try to create a humiliating blind taste test some day...

Anyway, there's a lot of very young spirit in this batch.  This is a familiar tune.  The recent growth of new small American distilleries has resulted in an lake of young bottled spirit.  It's born of necessity, investors require revenue so producers put what they have on the market.  The fault in that approach is a brand can be destroyed by premature products.  Young whisk(e)y isn't necessarily bad, but there's very little of it that's reliably good.  As I just wrote on Facebook, I'm looking forward to what the market will look like in ten years.  Who will be still around?  The key isn't for a company to sell someone one bottle.  That customer needs to return for a second and third.  Marketing will nab the first sale, quality will win every bottle after that.

Stranahan's has already been around for ten years.  So they're doing something right, aside from getting a major buyer.  They release their products in small batches, so there will be variation.  This particular batch doesn't inspire me to run out a buy a bottle.  But it didn't scare me off.  I'd love to see a five-year old whisky from them someday.

Availability - Colorado, New York, and (possibly) California
Pricing - $50-$60
Rating - 78 (up from 70 on day 1)