The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2011

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ARREL Without a HERE'S CLEAR PROOF THAT UNAGED WHISKEY IS BACK by Geoff Kleinman A fter a great deal of early buzz, the category for unaged whiskey has fi nally begun to gain some traction. Almost simul- taneously, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace have announced offi cial unaged whiskey offerings, with other major distilleries rumored to be following suit. This is a sig- nifi cant step for this re-emerging category. Unaged whiskey isn't a new category. "In the 1800s, there were over 14,000 distilleries in America, most very small. Distilling was something you did on a farm as a great way to store grain. You might have been put your spirit in a barrel, if a barrel was what you had to store it in, but it certainly wasn't aged. Whiskey back then was drunk raw," explains Max Watman, author of Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine. As with many things related to distilled spirits, that changed dramatically with Prohibition, which shifted the whiskey landscape and made the farmhouse still and unaged whiskey a thing of the past. With the recent craft distilling revival in America, unaged whiskey has begun to see a return. "It is largely a newly re-created category by new craft distillers who have not been in business long enough to lay down a signifi cant number of barrels of aged whiskey, and nothing generates cash fl ow like a product that can be made today and sold tomorrow," Phil Prichard, distiller of Lincoln County Lightning, tells THE TASTING PANEL. Unfortunately, the category is a slightly muddled one, with a mix of products that each come at the space differently. Unaged whiskey is being sold under the names white dog, white whiskey, corn whiskey, moonshine, lightning and new make spirit. Some of these products, such as Heaven Hill's Trybox Series and Buffalo Trace White Dog, are the unaged version of the spirit used to make aged whiskey, while others like Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning and Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine are specifi - cally designed to be consumed unaged. As the unaged whiskey category begins to grow and take shape, some distillers see it as a solid opportunity both to introduce new customers to whiskey and to continue to develop a new spirits category. "White Dog is a great tool to help educate people about whiskey, and it helps them understand why we make these different recipes," says Harlen Wheatley, Master Distiller for Buffalo Trace, who recently released both wheat and rye White Dogs to accompany its previously released Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1. "It's a clear spirit that has substance," explains Rob Samuels, COO of Maker's Mark, whose Maker's White is now available at the distillery. "These spirits will end up breaking a lot of rules like most transcendent things." Releasing unaged whiskey isn't always motivated by money. Many craft distillers release their unaged whiskey to show off the craftsmanship that goes into the raw spirit. "I think it takes guts for a distiller to offer their white dog. You are exposing the true, natural profi le of the spirit. A barrel can hide a lot of mistakes," says Orlin october 201 1 / the tasting panel / 81

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