by Russell Warshay, Contributor, Proof66
[As fans of the craft distilling movement and to salve the curiosity of fans, this is the first article in a series about the opening of a craft distillery.]
So I'm going to open a distillery in Brooklyn. Seriously, I am going to do this to make a new kind of whiskey. It is what I want to drink. It seems that no one makes a regularly available spirit that tastes like what I want for under $100 a bottle.
To understand, let's go back in time to October, 2011. I was chatting with friends. Alcohol came up and I realized that I didn't have a single bottle of anything in my home. Quite simply, I've never been much of a drinker. I decide to buy a few bottles of stuff and "stuff" is about all I knew about liquor. With no idea about what to buy, research on the internet commences. My first purchase was of a still-sealed bottle of vodka, Teachers and Buffalo Trace. I like the stuff! A new hobby is born.
My newly discovered passion for whiskey is well served by the many available reviews on the internet but tasting notes were new to me. As I read them, a few words stand out: "cocoa" and "chocolate." I love chocolate. I now love whiskey too. If whiskey that tastes like chocolate is a good thing, I've got to get some.
That hobby is now a quest. Many bottles of whiskey are purchased because someone's tasting notes mentioned "cocoa" or "chocolate." Just because "cocoa" is mentioned as part of the finish of Ardbeg 10 doesn't mean that this well regarded Islay whiskey tastes anything like chocolate. I do discover some sherried scotches that get close to where I'm trying to go. And I learn of Glenmorangie's Signet, which becomes a source of inspiration. At $200 a bottle, Signet is not inexpensive. What it does show me is that I'm not alone in pursuing a chocolate flavor profile.
I figure there's got to be something out there that gives me what I want at a reasonable price, right? In April I post a question on an online whiskey forum. Many excellent suggestions are made. Many bottles are purchased. I even buy from an English retailer because certain whiskies are not available in the U.S.
Nothing for under $100 a bottle that does it for me. Nothing.
Whiskey and chocolate tastings are popping up all over the place. Glenmorangie has their Signet. Kings County Distillery has a respectable chocolate whiskey. Cacao Prieto has a very interesting rum. Prichard's has a nice "double chocolate" bourbon that's close.
So, what am I looking for? Perhaps the best way to describe it is first to imagine a Speyside sherry bomb with chocolate notes in the background, like Glendronach 15 Revival. Now consider the ratio of dark fruit to chocolate flavors. Now reverse the ratio. That's what I want. And it doesn’t have to be like scotch. It could carry some of the attributes of a bourbon. I came to the realization that there is only one way to get this type of whiskey: I'll have to make it myself.
In June 2012 I enrolled for a September workshop in Chicago because I'm going to open a distillery.