The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 94 of 124

94  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2018 Dancing Goat Distillery is located in Cambridge, Wisconsin, a small town of 1,500 people near the capital of Madison. While the new, modern- looking distillery can be found just down the road from a recently built subdivision, it's easy to miss the turnoff from Highway 12, as the street isn't even on Google Maps yet. The crafts- men behind the distillery, Travis Hasse and Nick Maas, don't mind—in fact, they kind of enjoy it. "We've submit- ted our info to Google, but nothing's happened," Maas says with a shrug. "If people want to find us, they'll find us." Hasse and Maas' laidback attitudes belie their combined years of experi- ence in the industry, which led both to success even before Dancing Goat's creation. A Wisconsin native, Hasse conceptualized his eponymous Travis Hasse Apple Pie Liqueur years ago on a napkin at his kitchen table. He later met Maas through Maas' father Thomas, a distiller who invented the top-selling liqueur RumChata. Maas, a third- generation distiller and the creative force behind Dancing Goat's spirits, is a multitalented mad scientist and avid baker who's lent his recipes to compa- nies and aspiring cooking bloggers. Cambridge distinguished itself as an ideal setting for their distillery, with access to plentiful wheat and a climate built for aging whiskey. Many distill- eries in the Midwest focus on bourbon, but Hasse and Maas launched Dancing Goat by producing their Limousin Rye whiskey. "Bourbon was more popular than rye in the past," admits Hasse, "but I think we stand out making a spirit that's different and versatile." Dancing Goat's Limousin Rye is somewhat unconventional in the world of American whiskey, as it's aged in used barrels—or what Hasse and Maas like to call "vintage" barrels. The aging whiskey is carefully monitored to control tannin extraction; the barrels themselves, meanwhile, also enable the grains to have a greater impact on the flavor of the final spirit while helping to avoid an overload of oakiness. The result is a smooth and flavorful rye that has already earned five ratings of 90 points or more from various outlets. Perhaps one of the most distinctive elements of the distillery's approach to production is its solera finishing system, comprised of used French Limousin oak wine barrels shaved down to their virgin wood and toasted. Twelve to 20 barrels of aging whiskey are blended at a time before they're allowed to marry together and finish aging in the solera system. This finish- ing is a proprietary process that does not have a specific start and end date, as the whiskey stays in until it reaches its desired flavor profile. Each batch that rests in the solera system is indi- vidually tested and adjusted by Maas, meaning the proof of the Limousin Rye can vary from batch to batch. It can certainly be time-consuming, but Maas is adamant that it produces a quality whiskey that "targets taste" (plus, he adds with a grin, "it's fun"). Limousin Rye is currently available on- and off-premise in 14 national markets, and while other Dancing Goat spirits are also in the works, Hasse and Maas say they're in no rush to produce a large lineup of products. "We'd rather focus on making one thing that's really, really good and putting Wisconsin whiskey on the map," Maas explains, with Hasse adding that their main goal is to "create something for fun, for our family, and for our friends." Despite this singular vision, Hasse and Maas don't spend the entirety of their time on their rye: They also sell a fantastic whiskey barrel–aged maple syrup that makes an appearance in some of their cocktails at the distillery. The duo are also planning to keep some of Dancing Goat's namesake farm animals on the grounds: As the distillery's mascots, the goats could also be considered a symbol of Hasse and Maas' approach to business. "They're fun-loving and loyal, yet stubborn and determined," Hasse quips. Dancing Goat utilizes the solera system of aging—a point of pride inside the distillery—to finish its Limousin Rye Whiskey.

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