Who makes whiskey? A laconic Scot tending a still in the Highlands? A good old boy nursing his sour mash in Kentucky? A moonshiner brewing sneaky Pete up yonder in the holler?
They're not the only kinds of whiskey makers anymore. Lately there's been an explosion of handmade whiskey here on the West Coast. Forget Scotland and Kentucky — we have a crop of eager Western dudes who want to create a distinct Western style of whiskey.
They're taking this nouvelle whiskey idea in wildly differing directions — rough and powerful, sweet and fruity, gnarled and smoky, mellow and harmonious. The result is whiskeys with very distinct personalities, whiskeys you don't find anywhere else.
Easterners may be puzzled. The West Coast is known for lighter drinks — beer and wine. In fact, that may be exactly why small-batch whiskey is happening here. "West Coast consumers are more receptive to craft whiskey," says Lee Medoff of Edgefield Distillery near Portland, Ore. "They've grown up with wineries and microbreweries."
Another San Francisco company, Anchor Brewing Co., made the first of these West Coast whiskeys: Old Potrero. Anchor's owner, Fritz Maytag (whose family created both Maytag washers and Maytag blue cheese), has a track record of turning out excellent products by revitalizing old-fashioned, small-scale production techniques. His Anchor Steam beer was instrumental in reviving craft beer brewing in the 1970s.
Good shit, too! Go read about it. Unique, even in this age of microbreweries.
Good article. Goes into the heads and tails of making different kinds of spirits and describes several. Long article, but well worth reading. Enjoy.