Bourbon has long been our go-to for reasonably priced whiskey, but as demand continues to grow, more and more producers are jacking up prices to cash in on the trend. That's part of what makes Tincup American whiskey such a refreshing change of pace: it's a delicious whiskey at a reasonable price.
But perhaps counterintuitively, it's not always all about the spirit—spend enough time in the whiskey world, and you'll hear time and again how important water is to the finished product. Several Scottish distilleries are named after their source, Jack Daniels was founded near a cave spring for its water. But whiskey entrepreneur Jess Graber (co-founder of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey) and Proximo Spirits have taken a different approach—instead of making whiskey where the water flows, they're bringing the whiskey to the water.
Tincup American Whiskey is distilled by MGP Ingredients in their Lawrenceburg, Indiana facility (here's a little background on MPG/LDI if you're curious). Working together with MGPI, Graber developed a whiskey mash bill of what he calls the 2/3 to 1/3 sweet spot: 64% corn, 32% rye, and 4% malted barley. After distillation in copper stills, the whiskey is aged in new charred white oak barrels for 4 to 5 years, and batched and blended for consistency. Finally, it's shipped to Denver, cut with Rocky Mountain water to 84 proof, bottled, and labeled. Graber says the limestone of the Front Range makes for mineral heavy water which gives the whiskey crispness and clarity.
Now, while some may see the Colorado messaging as a pure marketing move (and I'm usually as skeptical as the next guy), Graber has been up front and transparent about the source, process, and rationale behind this product. When I had the chance to chat with him the other day, he explained that he wanted to bring a quality whiskey to the market at an affordable price, and taking advantage of MGPI's economies of scale for distillation and aging was the best route to accomplish that mission.
At around 25 bucks a bottle, this is a whiskey we can recommend. Radiant copper in color, Tincup smells quite spicy and dusty—I can't help but picture walking into an old saloon with shafts of light falling through the windows—but as the whiskey opens up in the glass there's a hint of sweet corn and just a touch of oak that gives it structure. The flavor is all rye spice with just enough caramel for balance—it's a full-flavored whiskey that doesn't pull any punches.
The finish is warm, oaky, and surprisingly smooth for such a robust and spicy spirit. While technically a bourbon, Tincup drinks much more like an easygoing rye—perfect for a no-nonsense-puts-hair-on-your-chest whiskey fan, hold the grimace and the burn. I'd say it's closest relative is Bulleit Bourbon, but Tincup's a little more aggressive and less sweet (which is likely why they've branded it as American Whiskey instead of bourbon).
Have you tried Tincup yet? What did you think?
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 as an independent producer in Brooklyn.
Tasting sample provided for review consideration.