Random fact: Colorado has the fourth largest amount of craft breweries per capita in the United States. But lurking in the shadows is the growing number of distilleries that dot the map all around the Centennial State. One of those distilleries is located in Buena Vista, which is the kind of small resort town that you wouldn’t think to find one in. Deerhammer Distillery initially began their distilling portfolio by concentrating on single malt whiskey. As opposed to bourbon, single malt whiskey uses only malted barley. There are many reasons why this grain is preferred in distilling but that’s a topic for another day. Malt Whiskey has the benefit of coming to age quicker than most bourbons, so it makes sense to start out with it when you first start distilling. Also, with the number of people that got their start with Scotch or Irish Whiskies in the US, it wouldn’t be that big of a leap to get them to try your products.
Deerhammer’s single malt whiskey is distilled in copper pot stills and aged in new charred-oak barrels. Using new barrels is not typically what Scotch and Irish Whiskey are aged in, but it does seem to help speed up the aging process. Deerhammer’s Single Malt Whiskey comes in at 46% ABV which may sound like a deal breaker to fans of high proofed bourbons but I find that it generally works well for malted whiskey. Malted whiskey still retains its thick mouthfeel and doesn’t lose quite as many flavors at a lower proof than its rye whiskey or bourbon counterparts, but that may just be my opinion.
I have recently started exploring more Scotch products and have felt that I can relate more to American single malts than I may have done in the past. So with that in mind, I looked forward to seeing what this would be like. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: While I’d associate malted barley with more grain-forward scents, this one surprises me with a load of “springtime” scents like a rye whiskey might have. There are cherry blossoms, honey, vanilla extract and an earthy sweetness that is hard to describe. It is almost like the smell a sweet potato makes as it bakes. Sweet aromas dominate overall notes of Caramel Chews and nougat are found with every sniff.
Palate: The cereal grains I often get with American Malts is apparent after the first sip. It kind of takes me back to my childhood when my mom would make Malt-O’-Meal hot cereal on cold winter days. There is sweet honeycomb and pancake syrup that sweeten every sip too. Hints of red pepper flakes and cinnamon spice keep that sweetness in check though. The wonderful thing about malts is how many subtle flavors hide throughout and it starts to become harder to identify them all.
I did find bolder notes like cacao nibs and espresso beans coupled with scents of smoke as the session went on. There was also a nice mix of fleshy fruits like plums, apricots, cherries and green apples. A few more uncommon flavors appear throughout that add complexity and remind me of a malted whiskey from Scotland or Ireland. Mike & Ikes candies, medicinal notes and a touch of salinity are just some of the flavors like that.
Finish: A bit of smoke starts off the finish while bittersweet chocolate, a hint of roasted meat fat and a light Cyprus wood note all linger around. Honeycomb and cinnamon spice keep things sweet throughout as the finish slowly fades away.
Count me impressed with this malt! I was not expecting to find the depth of flavors, the complexity or the thick and satisfying mouthfeel that I did in this bottle. It was delicious and tasted like it had been aged much longer than its label indicates. I’m surprised how much I really got into this pour.
The value proposition on Deerhammer Single Malt is roughly the same as Stranahan’s. They both are roughly the same proof and Stranahan’s is likely a year or two older. But age and proof are only specs that won’t give you the full scope of how a whiskey tastes. I think that Deerhammer has slightly more fruit and some more bitter-tannic qualities (but in a good way with the espresso beans and bittersweet chocolate). They are both so similar that I’m going to have to evaluate them in a side-by-side comparison soon. Until then, I would confidently recommend this bottle to anyone who is interested in dabbling into the single malt market of American whiskies. It’s expertly done.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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