Last week – made with lots of love just in time for Valentine’s Day – Sugar House Distillery released a truly historic American whiskey – Utah’s very first “bottled-in-bond whiskey.” I’ll say more in a minute about what that means. But first, let’s turn to this very special whiskey to learn about how it was made.
To make this whiskey, Sugar House Distillery founder James Fowler and his crew began with a 53-gallon barrel of their oldest American Single Barrel Malt Whiskey which is made with 100% malted barley (a combination of Pale, Vienna, and Honey malts with hand-selected yeasts for fermentation) – the same one that garnered a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco Spirits Competition – which was already more than five years old. Then, they parked the whiskey in “a fancy French Oak barrel” that had previously housed Saracina Vineyards Malbec wine.
The distillers explained that “This very special old whiskey was this barrel’s ‘3rd fill’ – meaning that the barrel still had much love to give.” This Barrel Master whiskey then spent an additional year in the Malbec barrel, which means that altogether the whiskey is now more than 6 years old.
Spending time in the Malbec barrel with French oak gives the whiskey some wonderful nuances, including dark fruit flavors and touches of honey and spice. Says wine and spirits expert Francis Fecteau – owner of Libation SLC – about the Malt Whiskey Barrel Master Series No. 1: “It has length, balance, richness, and an even palate with layer upon layer of caramel, honey, roasted nuts, grains and a beguiling streak of black fruits that linger persistently toward the center of the palate.” I was fortunate to be able to taste this whiskey prior to its release and I totally concur with Francis’ summation; this is a very special whiskey, indeed.
To add to the appeal, this whiskey is produced with local grains and, as I mentioned earlier, is a “bottled-in-bond” spirit. Here’s the concept in a nutshell. Around the turn of the 20th Century, many American whiskeys were of questionable provenance. There were few, if any, legal quality controls over whiskey making and some disreputable distillers would use adjuncts like wood chips, caramel coloring, and even formaldehyde to impart traditional whiskey flavors to their not-so-pure products.
Ultimately, the federal government created a standardized designation – an early consumer protection law, in effect – called bottled-in-bond. The law mandates that to receive a bottled-in-bond certification the spirit has to be made by a single distiller, aged a minimum of 4 years, and bottled at 100 proof at a single distillery in one season. Then, it must be aged in a bonded warehouse facility. The result is a product that is very terroir-oriented, distinctly demonstrating its place of origin in flavor, aromas and texture.
Obviously, not all whiskeys – in fact, not even most – are bottled-in-bond. And Sugar House Distillery’s Barrel Master Series No. 1 Whiskey ($89.99) is the first such whiskey ever produced in Utah. There were only 300 bottles made. You can get yours at the Sugar House Distillery store on South West Temple, if they haven’t all been bought up yet. If they have, no worries – Sugar House Distillery has plenty of other wonderful products to take home and enjoy.
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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