Come Taste VARA & Taylor Garrett Spirits With Us

Road Trip!

VARA Winery and Distillery | Taylor Garrett Spirits – Albuquerque, NM

On today’s Road Trip stop, We are meeting up Scott Feuille, head distiller at VARA Winery and Distillery & Taylor Garrett Spirits in Albuquerque, NM. We had so much fun tasting through their amazing products and learning about their history, as well as getting a glimpse of where the magic happens for Scott’s proprietary accelerated aging process used in the production of some of the brown spirits made for both Taylor Garrett and VARA!

From VARA:

Vara is an international family of Spanish and American wines and spirits celebrating the origin of the American wine experience thanks to the historical connection of Spain and New Mexico. The history of wine in New Mexico is over 390 years old and is as rich and complicated as its colorful landscapes. The flavor of this ancient history plays out in the wines produced here from robust reds to crisp whites. Wine lovers will find Vara wines an enchanting experience.

In 1629, 140 years before the first Missions of California were established and planted, a Franciscan friar named García de Zúñiga and a Capuchín monk named Antonio de Arteaga planted the first European wine grapes in what is now the U.S. at a pueblo in the Rio Grande Valley of the Province of New Mexico. Viticulture took hold in the valley, and by the year 1880 the New Mexico territory was the fifth largest wine producer in America. The cuttings brought to the new world by missionaries from Spain were of a Vitis Vinifera grape variety known as Listán Prieto, or the present-day Mission grape. This variety has been continuously grown and is still harvested in New Mexico today.

VARA Winery & Distillery

From Taylor Garret:

Taylor Garrett Spirits was borne out of an aviator’s vision to produce a unique line of spirits using breakthrough aging technology while honoring the traditions of the world’s great Master Distillers. We are a veteran-owned company located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and founded by Scott Feuille, a retired Naval Aviator and commercial airline pilot. Having traveled the globe and tasted some of the finest spirits the world has to offer, he’s always been fascinated by the skill and traditions of the great American distillers. With a passion for distilling and in pursuit of the perfect timeless spirit, Scott began his quest to craft the best tasting, no-nonsense whiskey on the market today. Family is important to us, and Taylor Garrett is named for Scott’s two young children. Taylor Garrett aims to get high-quality, artisanally-crafted spirits where they belong – in the glasses of whiskey lovers.

Taylor Garrett Spirits

VARA & Taylor Garrett Highlights

00:08 – Intro & Welcome

00:51 – Intro to VARA Winery and Distillery with Scott

02:28 – Little secrets behind the logo

02:34 – VARA Paso Uno (brandy) Tasting

03:43 – VARA Rum Blanco

04:28 – VARA High Desert Gin

05:16 – VARA Fine Spanish Brandy

05:33 – VARA Anejo Rum

06:54 – Tour and information about the Solera Aging Process

07:59 – Taste and Learn about their Taylor Garrett Whiskeys and aging process

08:48 – Taylor Garrett Whiskey

09:34 – Taylor Garrett Rye

11:19 – Accelerated Aging process

14:06 – Thank you and outtro

About Your Hosts

The Crafty Cask celebrates and supports craft alcohol makers through engaging consumer content, events, virtual tastings, and online education. We help craft enthusiasts drink better and craft makers market their brands better to build thriving small businesses that keep #TipplerNation drinking well!

Your hosts for this event, alongside the featured maker, are Suzanne Henricksen, Founder of The Crafty Cask and Evan Rothrock, sommelier, certified cider professional, mixologist, and bespoke wine tour guide.

Read the transcript

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Hi I’m Suzanne Henricksen, a researcher and storyteller by trade, and a world explorer, drink local enthusiast by heart. I’m traveling the world to celebrate and share the people the  

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process the stories and the innovations 
behind craft alcohol and I can’t wait to  

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share our amazing kinds with all of you 
so let’s get drinking Crafty Cask Style

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Welcome to Lifted Spirits Distillery we are 
here in Kansas City, Missouri and we are  

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so excited to head on inside and hang out with Michael the owner and distiller or he used to  

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be a lot of distilling before he had to focus 
on all of this craft distillery ownership stuff  

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so we’re gonna head inside and taste some of his spirits and head check out his distillery  

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and learn all about Lifted Spirits 
Distillery come on let’s go  

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[Michael] do you guys want to try a cocktail with a ‘Supernova’ that Derek made up yesterday?
[Suz] Sure, Love that!

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[Michael] Cheers everybody, thank you for coming
[Suz] Of course, thanks for having us
[Michael] Absolute pleasure, I love doing tours, which is part of why I opened a distillery

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[Michael] everything we have right now is uh 100 wheat based including our whiskey  

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[Suz] where does the wheat come from?
[Michael] the wheat for our whiskey comes from a farm in Bellsville, Kansas just 30 minutes  

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[Michael] just south from here

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[Michael] and then the base for the other 
ones is either a combination of that  

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with a soft light wheat it’s a softer 
Russian wheat for the whiskey
[Suz] okay  

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[Michael] and we use a combination of that and a I’m sorry it’s a hard red which rich wheat  

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[Michael] and then the base for our other ones is a soft white organic wheat from Kentucky  

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[Suz] yeah because I feel like the personality really comes through a little bit more so I’m excited, I’m excited to check that out

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[Michael] so walking through the products 
then, is our first is our ‘Brilliant Vodka’
[Suz] okay  

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[Michael] at first it was just Vodka and then we realized everything had a great name  

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[Michael] except for the vodka so we went back and when we opened we only had our vodka and our ‘Bright Gin’  

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[Michael] and two products because the whiskey wasn’t done yet, and went back and talking  

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[Michael] about the vodka what really came out and overall in who we are we keep going to the stars  

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[Michael] because that’s what we’re shooting for our distillery we want to be really  

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[Michael] creative and make new cohesive flavors so if like Calvin and Hobbes made a distillery we want  

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[Michael] we want to inspire them and then with the with the vodka it just shuns it just it shines it’s  

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[Michael] ethereal it’s light but it tastes you can get a little bit of it from those wheat containers and  

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[Michael] some apple a little bit of maybe banana 
some apricot which comes through really  

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[Michael[ well on the Whiskey but there’s just those hints of it to give the body to some soul  

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[Michael] and then the next our second release or I guess out of our two first ones was the ‘Bright Gin’  

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[Michael] this was 4 and a half years 
ago right. I was working on the ‘Bright Gin’ about 5 and a half years ago

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[Michael] I taught myself from just going to the library I’ve never took chemistry and have a background in it I’ve   

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[Michael] been wanting to make this and blend it to my friends because I fell in love with this idea that spirits  

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[Michael] were inherently communal there was a friend group who brought craft spirits and tried different  

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[Michael] cocktails and I wanted to make that and bring it to them so with the ‘Bright Gin’ I was taking some  

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[Michael] of these traditional recipes and tinkering with them trying to make them my own I realized I knew  

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[Michael] how to distill and I knew how to follow a recipe but I didn’t know why the recipe was the recipe  

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[Michael] so i took uh about 40 different botanicals that I could think of and I just told them in the Gin and distilled them individually

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[Michael] using uh either maceration or vapor distillation just to see what they did by themselves wow that’s  

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a quick experiment it was a lot of fun yeah then 
went back and put a couple botanical builds were  

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[Michael] covered by smell just to see what would happen and then make a ‘Bright Gin’ which is 100% vapor  

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[Michael] distilled okay um and we’re able to make cuts off of the distillation as we’re going to its most  

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[Michael] flavors in juniper you don’t normally get to taste and then the ‘Bold Gin’ was the next gin that we made  

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[Michael] uh it’s a really complex botanical gin so you’ll get like tingles of juniper with a little timber  

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[Michael] on the front of the tongue we macerate and also vapor distill so we have elderberry and  

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[Michael] barbary in the gin basket okay so it exposes rich dark berry flavors without it getting too tangy  

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[Michael] and puckery hence the bowls yes it is gin over 
them but it’s still not your grandpa’s handle  

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[Michael] it’s very complex so you’ll get a little bit of bright and some floral notes but not you know  

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[Michael] super flowery uh it’s very rich it’s very assertive, its bold. and then our third Gin up there  

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[Michael] is our ‘Barrel Reserve #2’ it’s so much fun I’m really excited about that we really want to  

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[Michael] you know keep exercising our creativity and so it’s number 2 because the second iteration of  

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[Michael] it uses the same botanical build as a ‘Bright Gin’ but distilled is an essence so very concentrated  

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[Michael] and it’s rested on our used Wheat whiskey barrels and on twelve-year-old Nicaraguan barrels so it’s  

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[Michael] got a fun sweet component to it good richness and then fourth Gin which was released this week is  

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[Michael] our ‘Supernova’ uh which uses some of those cuts that we were talking about on the ‘Bright Gin’ we  

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[Michael] don’t want to throw all that flavor away and so we keep the botanicals out of the gin basket and we  

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[Michael] keep those cuts and we re-macerate it and distill it as a traditional gin and it’s bottled with Navy  

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[Michael] strength and it’s called ‘Supernova’ because it’s just the brightest thing in the sky like it’s an  

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[Michael] explosion of flavor there’s so much to it honestly I don’t have marketing language about it now I’m  

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[Michael] just shooting from the hip here I haven’t gone through and refined it because it’s just so good  

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[Suz] yeah that’s right practice with us when we taste it we’ll we’ll for our marketing language

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[Michael] this is the uh, boiler, that we’ve uh pulled- so it’s gonna be taken out, it’s going bye-bye

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[Michael] and then all the mechanical that you see on the back wall, is going to replace it.

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[Michael] so we have uh now instead of having to try and maintain a you

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[Michael] know, 50 psi boiler which for us was introducing a lot of oscillations when you’re trying to distill the  

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[Michael] oscillation bad because then thermometer gets thrown off all the way through
[Suz] yeah  

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[Michael] so we were taking distillation runs that were going way longer than they needed to because there  

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[Michael] was always a state of um a state of unknowns inside the still and so getting the city steam  

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[Michael] service where we always have the right psi of I mean we always have high pressure steam coming  

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[Michael] in that it’s knocked down to 300 psi
[Suz] cool
[Michael] and provides infinite hot water for the building the  

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[Michael] little still that we have set up here this is Jill the Still- it’s just a little 113 liter Still
[Suz] I feel like I never hear female names for Stills I love that!

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[Michael] and so this is the still we use when we’re doing our ‘Bright Gin’ also some other experiments  

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[Michael] as we’re scaling them up uh it’s a direct uh heating element in there so we don’t use it for  

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[Michael] mash since we mill ferment and mash on the ring and so in here is where that neutral sphere we’ve  

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[Michael] made goes and then the gin basket here this large cylinder which surprises the basket yes

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[Michael] that’s where the botanicals are all suspended so as we’re distilling it again the vapor is going up  

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[Michael] through all those botanicals which extracts 
the flavor really quickly but really gently  

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[Michael] uh and allows us to take cuts off during the process because some of those compounds get cold and  

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[Michael] are still heavier than the temperature wants to be at so we fall at the bottom  

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[Michael] and then we just have a little condenser here and a little parrot and we distill that gin as a as an  

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[Michael] essence which is then later turned into the ‘Bright Gin’ as it’s proofed- This is our Mash Ton it’s  

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[Michael] named Hulk because “Hulk sMash” yes it doesn’t normally look this way uh we’re like I said in construction so  

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[Michael] there’s some pieces we’re working on the agitator on the big stove sure um but it’s just a- Custom  

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[Michael] Metal Craft made it it’s uh altered IVC with a you know pressed on steam jacket we do all of  

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[Michael] our heating for our large processes with steam I’d love to have a steam jacket for a little still too  

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[Michael] just because it’s so efficient like you wouldn’t think of like steam’s an old technology yeah  

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[Michael] like all the energy that goes into that last little bit that turns that liquid into a vapor  

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[Michael] when that vapor condenses on the 
surface it all goes right back in  

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[Michael] and so it transfers it just amazingly 
well – and uh this is Stella The Still

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[Michael] it’s uh hot hybrid still so uh with 
the first part we just have four trays if  

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[Michael] we’re doing like a Whiskey or a Brandy and then we use active paper active reflex management

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(indistinguishable conversation)

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[Michael] so what we did is uh because 
it’s a reflux management still  

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[Michael] we will not use the declinator at the top which forces condensation uh to fill the  

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[Michael] trays up so if we’re wanting to not refine it that much uh we’ll use it as a pass-through  

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[Michael] and not ever do stripping runs we actually have a two-inch line arm that comes off of the kettle  

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[Michael] that we can bypass it with okay so our options the way we pipe it together which this is built  

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[Michael] from modular components so we could you know have a still we could tinker with and now we’re at the  

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[Michael] point where we know exactly what we’re looking for and this one’s been refined down to work  

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[Michael] the way we work and it’s kind of just a bathroom we still… I love great things
[Suz] yeah really  

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[Suz] awe Stella
[Michael] she’s been through a lot
[Suz] how often are you running your stills- to keep up with  

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[Michael] we do everything in sprints
[Suz] okay
[Michael] so it’s not like we have a like this many times a month  

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[Michael] it’s more like on you know in a month we’ll run it every day for a month and  

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[Michael] then we’ll skip a couple months depending on what part it is yeah I think that’s yeah

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[Suz] and this is your lab huh?
[Michael]  yes so this is the lab yeah  

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[Suz] this is where all the magic happens 
the evil right now
[Michael] —was used today

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[Michael] we were distilling the experimental recipe for a Swiss Absinthe so a Verte Absinthe [Suz] oh I haven’t had a  

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[Suz] Verte I don’t think? have you had a Verte? 
[Evan] no I have not. [Michael] um so playing with that we also have  

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[Michael] you know some other like all sorts of experiments so if you look at like our shelves for example  

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[Michael] when we have new botanicals that come in we put them through a standard battery of tests  

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[Michael] and then we have a couple other 
products hanging out over there that  

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[Michael] we’ve been putting through development 
so that’s PRND- product and development

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[Michael] um and then like our next botanical is finished  

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[Michael] kind of finishing drying and hanging above me right now it’s just a following experiment

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[Michael] you know a couple of different ABVs and different distillations and macerations  

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[Michael] just to see what it does um so what is this flowering experiment [Suz] oh cool   

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[Michael] yeah we’ll put it through we usually have six base tests that are a variety of ABVs and then  

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[Michael] whether it’s macerated or either vapor distilled or macerated it’s the [Suz] magic wormwood and scared the  

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[Suz] scary scary magic warm wood but everything 
[Michael] no it doesn’t have to be it’s so beautiful  

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[Michael] so this is our event space and we call it A Loft because it was…a loft…so the building  

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[Michael] was built in the 1880s as a staple for a big old ski bakery that used to be across the street there  

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[Micahel] and honestly this is these two doors where they bought the hay and everything in and  

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[Michael] you can see right here actually when you got the building there was a pepper right here  

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[Michael] where they would drop everything down a big reason I wanted to then open up the  

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[Michael] distillery was selling Distiller 
years ago I was you know touring  

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[Michael] different distilleries and discovering 
that if you ask two points of a question

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[Michael] yeah these aren’t secrets right like 
I read about them this is the library yeah  

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[Michael] and I don’t know the way I’m wired anytime there’s a curtain like blocking something or there’s like  

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[Michael] Wizard of Oz stuff going on like I gotta rip that curtain down yeah and so I opened up I wanted to  

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[Michael] open a place and that’s why we have big old glass doors instead of just windows we love doing tours  

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[Michael] that was honestly one of the most painful things about COVID for my business is that I  

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[Michael] couldn’t keep just doing tours we offer free tours 5 days a week and we finally opened  

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[Michael] tours up again that we booked them online so we get to do them again like it’s actually  

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[Michael] back here again but I remember in the lab which is just back there underneath where my guests  

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[Michael] at that point I was down there working on what became our final Absinthe recipe  

00:14:07,360 –> 00:14:10,960
[Michael] and at the same time there was 
a wedding going on in the hammer  

00:14:10,960 –> 00:14:14,880
[Michael] and set up right above those windows and so I’m listening to this couple of do the say the vows

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[Michael] and I’m working on my Absinthe and I’m like “I really get to do this right now?”

00:14:19,252 –> 00:14:22,388
[Michael] like…”is this real life?”
[Suz] “is this my job?”

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[Michael] people used to live their lives around distilling

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[Michael] it was a place where farmers would gather and turn their crop into something that they  

00:14:28,560 –> 00:14:34,080
[Michael] could get to market yeah that they would enjoy together and then after prohibition it became  

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[Michael] dagger things go back to it being open yeah let’s do tours let’s hang out around the still

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[Suz] okay all right so ‘Brilliant Vodka’ tell us 
about this beauty (intelligible)

00:14:58,160 –> 00:15:04,370
[Michael] so it’s got a smooth finish uh it has great mouth feel and it should rest really well

00:15:04,370 –> 00:15:10,910
[Michael] a couple hints of uh, maybe some apple, some apricot

00:15:20,720 –> 00:15:24,960
[Suz] it is nice though we were talking 
earlier about how people talk about

00:15:24,960 –> 00:15:29,562
[Suz] Vodka has to be neutral, neutral yes, but that doesn’t mean flavorless, you know?

00:15:29,562 –> 00:15:36,451
[Suz] it doesn’t mean like water, you know? There is some character- it’s got the mouth feel to it

00:15:36,451 –> 00:15:38,593
[Evan] especially really good

00:15:38,593 –> 00:15:46,670
[Suz] this is great! yeah it’s really fun I can see why you call it- that’s very light very fresh very kind of, yeah for sure!

00:15:48,123 –> 00:15:50,640
[Michael] this is a gin that we were 
just what we were just talking about people that  

00:15:50,640 –> 00:15:56,160
[Michael] have had all their options in all the wrong places uh we have a lot of folks that come in that are  

00:15:56,960 –> 00:16:04,801
[Michael] you know we’re in that place and this is the gin that can fulfill that relationship

00:16:04,801 –> 00:16:07,997
[Suz] it does not smell like a Christmas tree, ya know?

00:16:09,840 –> 00:16:13,306
[Michael] there’s some good orange notes on there and I feel like a little coriander

00:16:19,541 –> 00:16:22,014
[Suz] that’s my kind of Gin

00:16:22,014 –> 00:16:35,302
(loud background noise and intelligible conversation)

00:16:40,400 –> 00:16:41,934
[Michael] she’s not harsh, she’s not sharp

00:16:53,613 –> 00:17:00,486
[Michael] Bold Gin! So this is gonna be that rich botanical
[Suz] even the nose on this punches like ‘okay!’

00:17:00,486 –> 00:17:02,588
[Michael] it’s bold! It’s got a lot to it!

00:17:03,120 –> 00:17:04,320
[Michael] and then be sure to exhale

00:17:07,120 –> 00:17:09,120
[Evan] retro nose nasal olafaction

00:17:12,080 –> 00:17:21,841
[Suz] this is a little like peppery 
[Michael] so it’s that kind of peppercorn and that juniper on the front of the palette, rich berry on the outside

00:17:28,304 –> 00:17:34,640
[Michael] and theres just a itty bitty- a little bit of lavender that uh most people wouldn’t pick out and really  

00:17:34,640 –> 00:17:39,091
[Michael] that’s awesome that you can because it brings just a little dap on the mid-palette

00:17:39,091 –> 00:17:44,662
[Evan] I feel like its more of a dry lavender essence

00:17:58,160 –> 00:18:07,658
[Michael] so this is ‘Supernova’ so yeah, you’re gonna turn it, oh yeah look at all that oil

00:18:08,456 –> 00:18:14,877
[Suz] it’s much more grainy, savory to me than the other two, like I don’t get as much (inaudible) coming through

00:18:22,720 –> 00:18:23,970
[Michael] one in a minute

00:18:39,040 –> 00:18:44,480
[Suz] the beginning palette versus the middle palette versus the back palette it’s like transforming  

00:18:44,480 –> 00:18:52,236
[Suz] and as you’re swallowing it
[Michael] and then give it a good inhale and exhale through your mouth…it’ll change

00:18:53,360 –> 00:18:58,504
[Suz] I have to say for a Navy strain, it’s real smooth, yeah  

00:19:00,000 –> 00:19:05,294
[Suz] I’ve had quite a few Navy Strains, and I always like them they’re like WOO

00:19:05,600 –> 00:19:09,840
[Michael] yes that’s where I want to catch you (intelligible)

00:19:11,378 –> 00:19:15,265
[Michael] So next, we’re gonna do our ‘Barrel Reserve #2’

00:19:16,518 –> 00:19:22,476
[Suz] this is another thing that I don’t really feel like we see a lot of, but when we do see it, we are always really excited about it

00:19:22,476 –> 00:19:27,373
[Suz] I feel like Barrel aged Gin, is like (inaudible)

00:19:29,146 –> 00:19:32,634
[Suz] if they think they don’t like Gin, start here.

00:19:33,118 –> 00:19:44,055
[Suz] this is so (inaudible) and a bit appley?…it tastes like apple

00:19:44,560 –> 00:19:52,609
[Suz] there’s something else that’s a little like……almost tea like

00:19:54,143 –> 00:20:00,398

00:20:00,398 –> 00:20:12,641
[Evan] with the ‘Barrel Reserve #2’ is…similar to the other three but then, is it the same barrel?

00:20:12,641 –> 00:20:23,340
[Michael] it is, it’s the same as the ‘Bright Gin’ it was distilled as an essence about three times…

00:20:24,000 –> 00:20:28,513
[Suz] it’s kind of weird that it kind of smells and tastes a little bit like creamsicle to me

00:20:44,640 –> 00:20:48,880
[Michael] this next one is our wheat whiskey so want to reinforce that it’s 100%  

00:20:48,880 –> 00:21:01,840
[Michael] wheat whiskey it’s not bourbon there’s no rye or corn or barley in it it’s just wheat

00:21:01,840 –> 00:21:07,026
[Suz] I love that wheat coming through it tastes like pie crust

00:21:08,301 –> 00:21:11,814
[Michael] especially how easy it is to be overwhelmed as a flavor

00:21:13,760 –> 00:21:19,588
[Michael] like treating it gently and bringing those those characteristics through it also letting them feel less

00:21:19,588 –> 00:21:25,200
[Suz] um I am getting like especially 
now because that pie crust but I said  

00:21:25,200 –> 00:21:30,381
[Suz] when I first got the nose and now I’m 
like this is like a cinnamon apple pie like in my mouth, but not sweet!

00:21:35,160 –> 00:21:37,675
[Michael] So this is our Absinthe Verte!

00:21:37,840 –> 00:21:43,840
[Michael] so both of yours were prepared without sugar because I wanted to give you the full length  

00:21:44,560 –> 00:21:51,360
[Michael] so there’s a lot to do however there are strong black licorice notes because it’s that trinity of  

00:21:51,360 –> 00:22:01,265
[Michael] absinthe yes grand wormwood sweet fennel and green aniseed so you’ll get you know bitter savory sweet like altogether

00:22:06,336 –> 00:22:12,267
[Suz] it’s much less of a punch in the face of licorice than other Absinthe’s I’ve had, which I really appreciate

00:22:22,794 –> 00:22:28,160
[Suz] why don’t we line up all of these spirits now that we’ve tried them all all right

00:22:46,320 –> 00:22:51,600
[Suz] yeah beautiful Michael thank you so much for spending so much time with us today  

00:22:51,600 –> 00:22:57,520
I know you’re busy yeah I mean we’ve had so much fun and I know as a craft maker and an  

00:22:57,520 –> 00:23:01,040
owner of a distillery you’ll have a million 
plates start spinning at any given time  

00:23:01,040 –> 00:23:04,640
so we really appreciate you know 
taking the time to walk with running  

00:23:04,640 –> 00:23:08,080
distillery you take the time to let 
us taste through all this and really  

00:23:08,720 –> 00:23:13,520
we are super impressed yeah this has been really 
really fun and I love the whole idea of Lifted  

00:23:13,520 –> 00:23:18,880
Spirits and kind of elevating that experience 
with your spirits and I think your personality  

00:23:18,880 –> 00:23:24,640
and your charm and your storytelling helps do 
just that I love finding fellow talkers like me

00:23:26,800 –> 00:23:30,960
so thank you we’re excited to kind of hang out 
for more and I love that Danika lives here our  

00:23:30,960 –> 00:23:38,945
digital content manager you know she is a 
regular and she’ll continue to support you guys, really good to hear your story

00:23:39,120 –> 00:23:41,322
thank you so much
[Michael] thank you everybody!


Until next time… Drink craft and drink the world. Cheers!

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