Best Deal in an Artisanal Spirit Tasting with an Entertaining Speaker..
Mondays are always tough to get to a whiskey tasting, but I really enjoyed the 6th and I’s Summer Spirits: A Whiskey Tasting held on July 1st, 2013. It was a sell out crowd of about 150 Whiskey lovers and novices. The tasting was of Leopold Brothers Classic Spirits which are distributed by Leopold family member Lindsay Marsh (Lindsay’s brother in law is a Leopold) of Speakeasy Spirits in Washington, D.C. Lindsay employed quite a bit of family story telling and humor to introduce Leopold’s whiskies and spirits – and a few curious facts including that Mormons who don’t drink alcohol, actually were the first investors in their family brewery in Michigan, prior to their starting a distillery. Family and high real estate costs in Michigan helped the family decide to move to Colorado to expand the distillery.
We tasted through four of their products and then had a Gin and Tonic for the final taste and drink. Below are the whiskies and spirits with some basic tasting notes. If you’re new to artisanal hand-crafted spirits, Leopold is one of the originals. Lindsay, who spends much of her time at tastings and in stores in the District promoting and telling the story of Leopold Bros., said that credit for the explosion of American’s interest in small spirits producers should be given to the craft beer industry and home brewing which exploded on the scene a few decades ago with Boston Beer’s Sam Adams, and hasn’t let up. A key point is passion – one of the founding brothers, Todd Leopold, got his start in distilling after he received his Diploma in Malting and Brewing from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1996. He and his brother (who is a an Engineer specializing in environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes) do everything from hand and with small production methods: they try to use local ingredients when possible including malting their own grains, fruit from American producers, and even a cyprus wood fermenter which can never be truly cleaned like a stainless steel one – so the character of each fermentation is carried over to the next – this is American Terroir!
American Small Batch Whiskey – This is aged less than a year in new American oak barrels, but has a surprisingly good flavor from the touch of rye and barley added to the 65% corn mash blend. Could drink neat or in cocktails, this spirit isn’t aged the 2 years minimum for a Straight Bourbon, which gives it more flexibility as a mixer in cocktails.
New York Apple Flavored Whiskey – the Apple juice is actually added to the Whiskey and then aged in bourbon barrels. Some sweetness is left over which makes this a great aperitif or a good mixer in a cocktail like a liqueur – it is 80 Proof though!
Rocky Mountain Blackberry Flavored Whiskey – although Lindsey said this was sweeter than the New York Apple, it seemed drier to me, but this may because of the intensity of the dark blackberry fruit which added also a slight tannic almost red wine characteristic.
Rocky Mountain Peach Flavored Whiskey – the juice of peaches blended with whiskey and aged in used Bourbon barrels. Although this had peach aromatics, because of the intensity and concentration of the fruit it was more varied to me in aromas – maybe even some ripe pear and mango..spirits and fruits always bring out nuances in aroma that are unexpected!
American Small Batch Gin – made small batch from a still (vs. industrial style column still), this is more citrus and less piney juniper. This also has an interesting story: unlike 99% of gin makers, Leopold Bros. distills each botanical (like juniper, coriander, etc.) separately to keep their respective characters in the final cut – again, all about craftsmanship – what “artisanal” really means!
Of course at the end of the class, because I was hanging out with Catoctin Creek Distilling‘s own Emily Landsman, we had to try a few more spirits including the Absinthe, French Press Style Coffee Liqueur, Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur, and quite a few others including a Maraschino Cherry flavored whiskey. Definitely seek these spirits out – they are part of America’s culture. American terroir definitely exists!
Upcoming Whiskey Events in DC:
Whiskey, Swine and Wine (Sperryville, VA) – July 13th at Wasmund’s
Rum Tasting Class at Ceiba – July 20th in Washington, D.C.
Beer, Bourbon & BBQ -VIP Whole Hog Pig Pickin and Tasting Glass – September 21st in Reston Town Center, VA
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler