Serious Eats: Drinks
A New Direction in Flavored Whiskey: Pow-Wow Botanical Rye
In the past few years, we've seen a proliferation of flavored whiskies—from cinnamon, to cherry, to honey—and these products vary widely in quality and appeal. The category is seen by many purists as a waste of good whiskey (or an attempt to doctor up bad whiskey for sale). Personally, I believe there's a time and a place for flavored whiskies, particularly as a gateway whiskey for friends who can't believe they would ever drink the brown stuff. But a recent release from Georgetown Trading Company is poised to shake up the category.
There are quite a few unique aspects to this booze, starting with the base spirit. Heretofore, the vast majority of flavored whiskies were bourbon or Irish whisky, but GTC has put straight rye front and center. It's an intriguing move, as rye is typically quite spicy with sharp edges—the exact opposite of a gateway whiskey. But the innovation doesn't stop there. Rather than choosing a single sweetened flavor to blend with the whiskey, they've infused the rye with a blend of orange peels, saffron, and assorted other whole botanicals (the complete recipe and mashbill of the whiskey is not disclosed). It's a one-of-a-kind offering on the current whiskey world stage.
Bottled at 90 proof, this stuff has a huge aroma. Citrus, smoked cedar, incense, and vanilla leap out of the glass, with enough rye spice in the background to let you know it's still whiskey. On tasting, the flavors are all over the place: dark chocolate, menthol, stone fruit, raisins, funky Pu-erh tea, and of course the saffron, which works surprisingly well in the midst of the other flavors going on. It has a touch of sweetness (which helps to harmonize all of the disparate flavors), and is quite thin-bodied, but the finish is surprisingly long and full. It's like the bizarre love child of a young rye and an exotic gin, but I mean that in the best way. Designed for blending into all kinds of new and exciting cocktails, this whiskey puts a new spin on the classics (it makes an utterly unique and interesting Manhattan, for example). However, it still holds its own as a sipping whiskey, if not an every day dram. Listing at $40 a bottle, it's not for everyone, but if you're looking for an unusual flavored whiskey, this is the booze for you.
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films for an independent production company in Brooklyn.
Sample provided for review consideration.