For what it is worth(not much).....
I must start out by saying that I have not been a fan of Stranahan's Whiskey. In my un-professional and not very important opinion the Yellow label is muddled and boring while the Limited Edition Snowflakes that I've sampled have left me anything but impressed.
Most importantly, I'm not the biggest malted barley fan and well I think that's their jam...
Stranahan's seems to have a cult-following and some people(Coloradans Only) swear by Stranny bottles.
Also being said, I have never personally bought any Stranahan's bottle and/or possessed any Stranny's bottles in my own liquor cabinets. I have only had pours of Stranahan's products that I paid for from bars and restaurants, or was poured drams from fellow whiskey enthusiasts collections.
I am being extremely judgmental, ignorant, narrow-minded, vague, and whiskey profiling in my next statement, but to me most "Craft Distilleries" distillate comes out raw, underwhelming, under-proofed, and most importantly over-priced for what they are selling. Obviously whiskey takes time to develop and smaller craft distillers cannot just snap their fingers and viola, aged stocks!
But, that doesn't mean we should give them a pass on bottles they try and peddle to the masses to build a brand while they wait for their distillate to get some sleep..
Obviously, many people will stick up for craft distilleries and say they are "unique". Unique my ass, I'll get you a $10 dollar Kentucky Straight Bourbon called Heaven Hill 6YR BIB and I bet that if tasted blind side by side it'll murder 80% of any craft distillate available today priced at $30 to $150 dollars.
It seems to me that "Craft Distilleries" rely more on the whole "local is always great aspect" to help build their brand rather than the actual quality of juice that they bottle and sell behind those "brands"...
Obviously it is much harder for the little guy to succeed in our current inflated and spendy whiskey industry but, I am more interested in less propaganda and more substance from these Craft Distillery Brands.
Especially once they are finally bought up buy huge liquor conglomerates, in which one would think turns into more spending power, and they can now try and go after much bigger markets because they just can't get away with brainwashing the locals anymore.....
Now after all that word vomit
I got a text from my buddy Cascade Lesage who is a local Colorado fellow bourbon enthusiast that I often geek out about whiskey with. He asked me if I wanted to attend a invite only event with him at Stranahan's for a evening of tasting through 6 unique Cask Strength barrels.
Being the "craft whiskey" hater and whiskey douche that I am, I could not pass up on such a great opportunity to taste Stranahan's in its natural unadulterated state.
While we walked up to the event we both were pretty surprised at the turn out. He said he's never seen more than 30 people at these Stranahan's events in the past and I am guessing at least 150 showed up to this Cask Thief Event.
We were definitely at the back of the line and waited at least 35 minutes to get in.
As we walked in we were each handed gift bags with a official etched Stranahan's Glencairn Whiskey Glass and a booklet briefing us on the evening and barrels we will be sampling with some space to write down our own personal tasting notes.
Once swagged up with or gift bags we made our way through the rackhouse towards the barrel sampling room. We were met by a crowd of people already sampling the barrels, some tunes from a live band, and the aromas of oak barrels accompanied by the engulfing aura of a pig roast catered by Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market in Boulder, CO.
Before my first glass was even poured I'm thinking to myself "Damn, the Stranny Crew really knows how to throw a gathering"!!!
When we finally got to the barrel room we checked the layout of whats going on. They had 6 barrels throughout the room with in which I am assuming would be distillers and/or other employees pulling samples straight from the barrel via a thief.
Call me a weirdo, but it is very romantic to watch your sample being pulled straight from the barrel and into the glass. True farm to table.
The 2016 Stranahan's Cask Thief Event
Here are some descriptions on the barrels sampled via Stranahan's and my own personal tasting notes that I wrote down while sampling
THE K-STREET OG
130'ish proof. "6 years and 8 months, this was one of the first barrels filled when Stranahan's moved to the new and present distillery in 2009".
This was the first whiskey I sampled at the event and honestly the K-SOG was absolutely beautiful. It came out of the barrel at around 130 proof and was dark, damp, dank, syrupy, and luscious.
Great viscosity and oily mouthful. Fresh-hot toasted peanuts, chewy caramel, warm maple syrup, rich malt, intense butterscotch, and buttered biscuits.
Tons of toasted oak and sopping wet-musty-earthy wood.
For me, this was an obvious honey barrel. I could nose and chew on this particular whiskey all day and night all while questioning the fact that if Stranahan's has barrels like this in their wheelhouse why the hell don't they utilize it to there advantage and sell one-off, single barrel, cask strength bottling's instead of worrying about lame, local, fuddy-duddy, and muddled blends!?!?!?!
112'ish proof. "5 year mismarked and misplaced barrel. This cask deserved to be rediscovered"!
I was a fan of this barrel and it was Cas's favorite of the 6. Right away he said bananas as my palate was also already on its way to banana bread pudding, bananas foster, rich caramel and walnuts.
I also noticed a slight vegetal thing that was reminiscent to green coffee beans. Thinner than the K-SOG but still warming, oily, and syrupy in its own right. Good Stuff!
THE 3 YEAR OLD
113'ish proof. "2016 was our inaugural launch of the Stranahan's single barrel program. While selecting single barrel casks we discovered this 3 year old barrel whose taste was so spectacular that we just couldn't part with it. It is kept locked away and is only brought out for special events at the distillery".
This whiskey was my least favorite of the 6 barrel flight of the night but definitely better than any everyday Stranahan's yellow label bottle I have sampled. It was hot, raw, grainy, and green. Very herbaceous and vegetal. Green pea-pods and alcohol vapor danced and danced!!! Had some scotch-like smoke.
THE BUSTED BARREL
113'ish proof. "A 3 year old cask of our original whiskey, the lower volume of this leaky barrel creates greater liquid-to-surface ration, creating darker, chewier version of our batch whiskey".
Some abuse did this barrel justice. It is a young 3 years but somehow half the bottle leaked out and the whiskey came out quite delicious. Strong-musty-charred-tannic-oak. Rich vanilla bean and butterscotch. Thick and oily, with tons of tree sap.
112'ish proof. "Our 40 year old, 500 liter used sherry Oloroso cask delivered to us from the coasts of Spain, filled with Stranahans whiskey, aged 3 years, and cask finished in this Oloroso barrel for 2 years; this is old world finishing at its finest!"
Personally, I am a sucker for anything sherry and cognac barrel finished and in that notion I believe the very best wine cask finished whiskies are done at a minimum of 2 years in the secondary barrel.
Some brands secondary cask finishes are only for a few months to a year and in my opinion that is just simply not a enough time to really get those enveloping elements of the secondary oak.
That being said, luckily this whiskey has been chilling for 2 years in a huge Oloroso barrel and it did the 3 year old original new world Stranahan's distillate a world of old world goodness!
An absolute berry bomb. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, sip'n sherry, cook'n sherry, and chocolate all fight to be upfront. Thick and rich in which this pour would make for a great after dinner or desert dram.
THE RUM BARREL
113'ish proof. "Why is the rum always gone!? - a famous fictional pirate once asked. And good for us that it is, because that empty rum barrel became the perfect home four our Stranahans Whiskey Pirate Cask".
This barrel was ok. I preferred it over THE 3 YEAR OLD but it fell in line behind the other 4 offerings. It came off a little raw, grainy, and green just like the 3 yr old with the addition of some sweetness. Small traces of raisins and figs that I really had to dig around for.
Pretty yeasty which turned into a stale rum raisin bread topped with a schmear of hardened-cold butter for me. High levels of alcohol vapor wafting out of the glass.
I had a great time at Stranahan's for the 2016 Cask Thief Event. They threw a great party that really showcased what they have going on behind closed doors. I had the chance to pick Patrick's brain for a bit whom I believe was one of the distillers and we managed to get a little FaceTime with Rob himself while our Uber driver impatiently waited for us in the parking lot.
We asked both guys what the destiny of these 6 barrels possibly would be and if and when we'll see these barrels and/or barrels like them brought to the public at single barrel-cask strength iterations in the future and in which it doesn't seem like that will be happening just yet!?!?!?!?!
It seemed like they were more interested in keeping these barrels at the distillery for themselves, family, friends, and top clients rather than sell some truly solid whiskey in its complete natural form to public.
I'd personally do the exact same thing if forced to be in that unpleasant and taxing situation and decision making process...
I would love to absolutely love Stranny's distillate after seeing the possibilities of what is resting in Stranahan's rackhouses.
I personally think they are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to promote current boring blended Stranahan's offerings and shelf turds to date because it seems like to me that they have a few absolute gems marinating off of the highway in downtown Denver!!!
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