Distillery 291, based out of Colorado Springs, is a young craft distillery that puts out a surprising amount of products (11 at the time of this writing). Their whiskies are aged in 10 gallon barrels and are typically aged anywhere from 12 to 14 months. Normally, this is a recipe for a young, undeveloped tasting whiskey. Each bottle is also adorned with a smattering of stickers that show off awards that their products have won in the past. But as most whiskey enthusiasts know, awards and competitions are very subjective in this industry and are often disregarded.
But since I was on a trip to Colorado anyway, I had the chance to stop by the distillery on the recommendation of my friend who works at the Colorado Springs Independent Newspaper. If anyone would have the beat on a great local place (distillery or restaurant), it would be him.
The distillery tasting room is extremely small, maybe a 20′ x 10′ area at most. Their bartenders are polite and well versed in their products and will lead you through a flight of all of their bottles that they have on site (some are seasonal or very limited release). Their bourbon mashbill, which is used to make a 90 proof whiskey, 100 proof bourbon and cask strength bourbon, were all extremely drinkable with very little traces of young distillate. I would’ve believed them if they had told me that this was bourbon aged for 5 years in a 53 gallon barrel. This probably owes a lot to the 10 gallon barrel’s faster maturation ability.
Up next was the rye mashbill. This one I paid a lot of attention to because they seemed to have a lot of specs that I could get behind. 61% malted rye /39% corn, Aspen Wood Finishing staves, barrel entry proof of 125 and a barrel exit proof of 128, barrel char #4 aged under 2 years. I was extremely excited to try it and the bartender told me that she was most proud of the barrel strength rye. So how was it? Here are my notes:
Nose: I love the dark brown sugar aroma that indicates this will be a sweeter rye. There’s also some really interesting notes of simmering brown butter, fresh cut grass and a slight marshmallow fluff. For being only 12-14 months old, I’m surprised I’m also detecting charred wood as well.
Palate: Thick, viscous honey coats my tongue with a sweetness that gives the spices I’m detecting, like cinnamon, allspice and black pepper, a nice counterbalance. I believe this is the high amount of corn that mashbill has in it that is making it so sweet. There’s also a nice wood taste, but it doesn’t taste aged or seasoned as much as it tastes like it was recently sawn. Is this the Aspen staves doing their thing?
Finish: The finish starts hot, much like white peppercorn but then is quickly extinguished with some menthol cooling notes. There’s a lot of nice rye character that sticks around in your mouth, long after the sip is done, like sweet mint and hay, bitter orange peels and some a quick burst of heat (much like a white peppercorn setting on my tongue) then menthol cooling, followed by notes of sweet mint, sweet hay, bitter orange peel and Angostura bitters.
I am extremely impressed with the excellent rye whiskey that Distillery 291 created here. It was rich, delivered lots of flavor and was sweet without covering up a lot of the rye notes that rye lovers expect. The heat, for 128 proof, was impressively subdued. In a lot of ways, this matches up well with a barrel proof, ~7 year old MGP 95/5 rye whiskey in terms of flavors, depth and rye influence. That’s high praise coming from a distillery that is so new. The only thing that I can potentially find fault with on this whiskey is the price. It’s going to retail anywhere between $85 and $115 and that’s going to be some pretty large sticker shock for someone who judges whiskey solely by age statements.
So what does the future of Distillery 291 hold? I’m not sure, but will continue to follow them on social media to make sure I am aware of everything new they are doing. As of the time of this writing, Distillery 291 is moving its distribution out east towards Kentucky and beyond. For the time being, I don’t believe they have any plans to age in larger barrels or for longer periods of time because it seems like they have their process dialed in. As the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
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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