Definitive Guide to the World of Craft Spirits
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contents Letter From The Publisher Drinking Music Crafting Cocktailsâ€”Bartender Interview Glacier Distilling Company Deerhammer Distilling Company Deerhammer Recipes Alaska Distillery Yahara Bay Launch
2013 9 12 18 26 56 67 72 94
Publisher Design Director
Cobey Williamson Alex Vitti
Working Dog Media, LLC 1406 Summerdale Rd Corvallis, MT 59828
ÂŠ2013 All rights reserved. The contents of this magazine cannot be duplicated without the prior written consent of the owner. The views contained within the contents of MicroShiner Magazine do not necessarily reflect the views of its owners or staff.
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Nels. A. Wroe
Luc is a photographer and writer living in Longmont, Colorado. He has had a number of exhibits of his work, including his show “Portraits of Longmont Parks” at the Longmont Museum.
Nels is an award-winning freelance writer based in Colorado. He is a vocal advocate for local foods and artisans, and is the founder of the Garage Grocer, a neighborhood micro-distribution center that connects neighborhoods with local food producers.
Hayley lives in Forest Grove, OR, just outside of Portland, with her dog Riley. A third year optometry student at Pacific University, she has a passion for music, sports, and all things outdoors.
Joshua is an undergraduate student of Theatre in Northwest Montana who has spent the last few years of his life working as an Art Director in Flathead and writing in various outlets. His new book will be released through Dangerous Little Books in April 2013, for which he is very excited. He is also proud to be a contributing writer for MicroShiner as his new enthusiasm for spirits and distilling gains momentum.
Will is a 27 year old freelance photographer and cinematographer. He spends his summers working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and the rest of the year living out of a backpack, traveling as far and wide as possible with camera in hand. His work can be seen at www.vimeo.com/williamlascelles.
Jeffrey is a fourth year optometry student of Pacific University with a not-so-secret obsession for music. Sketches, avid home recording, guitar noodling saturated in delay, and secret songwriting are all in a day’s work when he is not making sure people can see 20/20 and beyond.
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Letter from the Publisher There is one thing you should know about MicroShiner. It’s not about booze. Yes, we focus our lens on the world of micro-distilling, but to be honest that is merely the prism through which we have chosen to examine ourselves and the world around us. As with anything in human endeavor, it’s the process, the journey, and the stories that come from it that we are most concerned with. When it comes right down to it, MicroShiner isn’t about alcohol at all.
It’s about people. And what better instrument for examining the human condition than spirits, and craft spirits in particular? Spirits move us. They bring us closer together, whether in a crowded tasting room on First Friday or next to a roaring stove in a ski hut somewhere. They provide the inspiration to open our eyes and our minds and our hearts to new points of view, new ideas, and new possibilities. They help us laugh and cry and grow and do all those things that come with being human. Spirits fill more than our bellies; they fill our souls. Can an entire magazine be merely about spirits? We don’t think so. Because spirits, without places to enjoy them and friends to share them with, without music to sip them by and reasons to celebrate, are mere apparitions. They are empty vessels, lacking both substance and meaning. It is people that provide those. Yes, you will find spirits in this magazine. More importantly, what you will also find, alongside feature profiles on great distillers like Alaska and Glacier and regular columns about the craft movement, are people. People who are conscientious and pain-staking and meticulous about weaving their own thread into this yarn called life, and who have determined to let their craft do the talking for them. Theirs are the stories we aspire to tell. So is MicroShiner really about craft spirits and micro-distilling? Absolutely. In fact, we have dedicated ourselves to the subject. But don’t be surprised if you find more than that lurking under our cover. Cobey Williamson Publisher
MicroShiner photo by Brenda Ahearn
photo by R.G. Nelson
Drinking Music Music and spirits are inextricably intertwined.Whether it’s the Rat Pack & martinis, the Jazz Age and bathtub gin, saloon whiskey and a player piano, or just pickin’ on the porch with a jar of shine, where you find one, you will likely find the other. So many analogies exist between the two that we felt, as a magazine about craft and spirits, inclined - nay almost obliged - to dedicate some space to music. Music is a craft. Doing it well depends on bringing a number of elements together in just the right proportions, and as with crafting spirits the resultant product is always greater than the sum of its parts. Differences in equipment, training, ingredients, recipes are reflected in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, variations in character, flavor, tenor, and tone. Each begins with a handful of raw material that, through a practiced and perfected process, culminates in a refined and handcrafted product, often for no greater purpose than sheer enjoyment.
Just as it is in the spirits business, the music market is awash with corporate product. Artists are groomed and selected based on one thing: their ability to sell records. All of the coarseness and irregularity is eliminated, and much of the nuance and the intangible lost.To paraphrase Neil Young at the onset of the digital age, the real music lives between the 0 and 1. In that regard, and in keeping with the theme of this publication, what we hope to offer you here is that space between the step and the curve that is so important, yet often goes overlooked. Here we hope to share some bands and music that you might just find playing onstage in your local tasting room or watering hole. Here, as with the micro-distilleries we focus on, you just might happen upon someone you know, and together enjoy a little Drinking Music.
Copper Mountain Band Choosing your music is like choosing your drink. Most of the time, it all depends on your mood.You might take your jazz with gin or mix cognac and rap, but when it comes to working through some heart-wrenching emotion, well, you’re probably drinking whiskey and listening to country. Copper Mountain Band is one country act that is firmly rooted in the genre, including the ability to drink you under the table. This group is small town country, through and through, and they prove it at every show. Singer Jacque Jolene‘s stage presence is 100 proof, and she’s backed by a band that truly knows what it means to have a good time. Throw in some red dirt, a tailgate, and PAGE12 |
a jar of Old Smoky moonshine and you’re well on your way to knowing what bein’ country is all about. Whether opening for one of Nashville’s biggest names, headlining the county fair, or playing a seedy roadhouse dive, Copper Mountain Band approaches every gig with the same drown your sorrows authenticity and kick up your heels enthusiasm as the last. Just don’t let them talk you into trading shots or picking up the tab. You’ll wind up drunk, busted, or worse, because the only thing CMB does better than mending broken hearts is breaking them.
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Hoots and Hellmouth The Holy Open Secret and Salt Hayley McCoy & Jeff Mattson Hoots & Hellmouth are a band from the great state of Pennsylvania, and I’ve had the extreme pleasure of experiencing two of their albums, “The Holy Open Secret” and “Salt”, with even more left to explore. Each album, while from the same band, has a distinct flavor, offering up American roots folk music with some minor rock influence thrown in. This is the kind of music you drink moonshine to, feet kicked up next to a fire after a hard days work on the great American railroad. There’s a good ole dusty party inside the album “The Holy Open Secret,” plenty of twang to go along with upbeat sing alongs. “Salt”, on the other hand, brings some slowed down folk numbers of a
Photo by Deneka Peniston
seemingly more sensitive nature. Maybe the land was taken over by rustlers, maybe we lost a good herd this winter, at least this album promises we aren’t the only ones misplaced by this rise of industry. The band’s bread and butter, as well as their passion, lies on a live stage on the road. I had the pleasure of discovering their soulful folk sound in the intimate confines of a small-town Mcmenamins. Afterwards I did not hesitate to purchase an album, but as truly enjoyable as their recordings are, they cannot not compare to the band’s live sound and energy. I would compare the distinction to a photograph of fireworks from the 4th of July: It may be a pretty picture but it doesn’t quite mimic the magnificent array of colors or capture the rumble in your belly as they explode overhead. Pair your poison, either “The Holy Open Secret” or “Salt”, according to your mood, or give their other albums some listens if you dare explore beyond this page. The twang of that ever present banjo along with the heavy gauge shimmering acoustic guitars, harmonica, choice stand-up bass and a subtle gospel influence will make you want to get out your dancing boots and polish the hard wood floors. Whether live or listening to the album, if you’re in the mood for some Americana, look no further than Hoots & Hellmouth. They’re a helluva good time.
Ponderosa Pool Party Hayley McCoy & Jeff Mattson
The lonely, I daresay eerie, flute that leads us into Black Hill Smoke served as my introduction to Ponderosa. Even in the foggy pre-nap state I was in, it did not escape me that this lonely flute; this mysterious beacon of light in the darkness was leading to something great (cue the drums); Ponderosa. I was hooked. The dreamlike quality that immediately consumed me with Black Hill Smoke can be found as a common thread weaving throughout the album; perhaps attributed in part to the lush layered harmonies or reverb laden vocals. To my delight after sampling the rest of their album, I could no longer pin Black Hill Smoke as my standout favorite. With songs like ‘Navajo’, fit for a live show with its
catchy shout along anthems; ‘Get a Gun’, with it’s distortion filled rhythm section; and ‘Heather’, which takes a step back with some spacey delayed drums, it becomes difficult to pick just one song to put on repeat. Deep set drums and subtle bass lines drive the songs forward while some choice organs and chunky guitars fill out the songs. This self proclaimed neo-psychedelic indie rock band hailing from Atlanta, Georgia can be easily filed away with your Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes records with their subtle folksy sound; but the weightless feel of the images they provoke serves to create separation for them. And now you have been so advised; if the opportunity presents itself, drop everything to seize it and experience this band live. Until that magical day, give their album a listen and experience the images and sensations that their provoking sound conjures in your mind.
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Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
A fine malt whisky from the Highlands of Scotland, finished for months in port-style wine barrels from Virginia. The added complexity and flavor notes transform a good whisky into an experience.
Virginia Highland Malt showcases the Virginia Distillery Companyâ€™s dedication to crafting quality whisky. Always authentic. Always a pleasure to drink.
photo by Kimberly Naslund
One autumn day in 2010, Melissa Durant interviewed for a hostess position at the soon to open basement speakeasy, Green Russell. An hour later she got the call offering her a position as a bartender. “I had never been behind the bar before. I had no idea what a Manhattan was or how to make an Old Fashioned. At the interview I left half the questionnaire blank. I didn’t know any of the answers,” she says as she places a sphere of ice she hand chiseled into the glass. Denver restauraunteer, Jacquline Bonanno, knew what she was doing that day when she asked Melissa if she would be interested in bar tending. Perhaps starting with a clean slate is an advantage when you’re learning to handcraft cocktails. As she carbonates the Vermouth, she continues, “When I taste a spirit, I should be able to drink it on it’s own or on the rocks. Then I know it will mix well.”
photo by Kimberly Naslund
photos by Kimberly Naslund
If she were sitting on this side of the bar she’d be ordering her favorite classic cocktail, the French 75. “Just because a spirit gets an award doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. I prefer to taste for myself. I enjoy craft spirits that aren’t mass produced or mass marketed. I would like to own my own restaurant or bar someday. Something that supports local distilleries, breweries and farmers, something casual”. She knows it’s important to have a balance of men and women behind the bar. It keeps everyone happy. She wouldn’t mind working a shift with JFK were he available today. “He’d probably show up in a suit. He’s not bad to look at. He wouldn’t have a clue what to do, which could be fun.” She carefully measures the spirits and simple syrup, one at a time they spill over the icy globe. “We have a lot of misconceptions about what things taste like. We might perceive fruit as always being sweet”. With a fluid motion she artfully begins to stir the drink in the glass. “When someone asks for a fruity cocktail, it doesn’t always
mean they want something sweet. We need to educate our guests when they order cocktails”. A fresh peel of an orange rind completes the drink. She grabs a napkin and slides the drink across the bar. The aroma of the orange peel waifs over the amber colored drink. It’s cold and velvety. The first sip is strong and undiluted but there is no burn, just a hint of sweetness. The peach bitters, rhubarb and cinnamon meld together adding a floral note to the whiskey. And with that there’s no doubt that the spirits and patrons alike are better served with Melissa behind the bar rather than the hostess stand.
When Life Gives You Peaches 2 oz. Leopold Bros. American Whiskey ½oz Art in the Age Rhubarb 1 Bar Spoon Cinnamon Simple Syrup 6 Dashes House Made Peach Bitters -Served over a rockTopped with Vya Dry Vermouth - carbonated
photo by Vincent Buckley
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Nic Lee’s smile was infectious as he handed me a small taste of his Glacier Dew naked whiskey, as though I was taking part in some hidden secret of which the meaning was forthcoming. Unfamiliar with immature whiskeys as I was, the entire process seemed to me a little curious—but it took merely a sip of these unique and brilliant labels before I was more than inquisitive, I was hooked on the idea. Glacier Distillery, saddled picturesquely in the gorgeous snowclad mountains of Coram, Montana, just by Glacier National Park, is undoubtedly one of the hidden gems that has made this region of Montana so special not only for its spirits, but the humble talents of the people who
come to make them. As Nic fondly told me that the distillery made its start the way most dreams do—over good drinks with good friends—it became readily apparent that their product intended (and succeeded) in creating that same feeling of friendship, comfort, and nostalgia. “We wanted to know what we would do if the worst disaster struck and we were holed up here,” he laughed. “We decided we only needed a few things for sure—and good booze was one of them. Before long, I started playing with that idea a little more seriously.” As his alluring associate Lauren Oscilowski walked me through their workspace, the sentiment was everywhere. From the marvelously
redolent charred oak aroma that hung thickly in the air, to the pleasing red barn façade that, as I visited, was decked in scintillating snow and icicles, even to the dusky warmth of their Bad Rock Rye—everything about their work and their appearance suggested something like home and comradery. So it was when I gladly accepted that taste of Glacier Dew—a fantastically clear, light whiskey distilled from grain and spiced from rye. Specializing in and passionate about immature whiskeys, Nic explained that the market for them was widely growing, and that even major corporations responsible for more house-hold names in the whiskey business were beginning to produce them—the difference in aging
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Winter2013 quite frequently means that the initial ingredients involved in the whiskey are not lost to the barreling process, nor does it color them with various shades of amber, topaz, gold, or bronze that we typically associate with whiskey. This, however, was merely one label demonstrating this part of the process, and as further bottles came, I soon discovered that Nic had fine-tuned his idealism of immature whiskey to an exact science. The bodies and colors grew heavier with each label—a surprising amount, considering their rather recent commercial opening two years ago. Within an hour of pleasant conversation and drinking, there stood lined before me a bottle of North Fork—a gorgeously rich topaz made in the bourbon tradition, much more similar of a whiskey product to enthusiasts but more balanced and layered than the cheaper products that are mass-produced; and their Wheatfish, so named because of their collaboration with a brewing company in Whitefish, Montana, utilizing their lager and produced in double-distilled barrels, Scotch-style. This created a spirit that was almost melodic, a type of many-layered, unhopped flavor that wasn’t overpowered by the charred oak characteristic of most whiskeys. Nic, like a particular Roald Dahl character in his famous inventing room, never had a surprise left untasted and before the end of our meeting had flourished with deserved pride a
selectively released Bad Rock Rye that was so stimulating on the tongue I must confess I drank more of the cup he handed me than was probably polite. The autumn sunburst color combined with the ultra-deep flavor and the gentle burn are exactly what excites me about these types of drink—each one was wholly new and inspiring. This is, of course, without touching upon their future and equally titillating experiments: with that impish smile once again, Nic explained to me that they hoped to roll out a type of cherry liquor next summer, an apple brandy, and a vodka— all of which would be beyond challenging aspirations for a company of their size and age, yet there was an undeniable confidence in both the manifestation and the sharing of these ideas. I would be less-than-surprised if Nic and Lauren produced them all with untold success. One must—if I have done my due diligence in visiting the place and writing about it—understand one thing about Glacier Distillery: it is hardly a business in the commercial sense. Indeed, a very similar vein runs through every micro-brewery and distillery I have had the pleasure to see in Northwest Montana, in that the ultimate and unwavering focus has always been on creating a superior product and to have fun. This type of ideology, when successful, comes out not only in their spirits but in their demeanors, in their reputations, and in their patrons. Those
A tAste thAt reflects the MontAnA
10237 HWY 2 East // Coram, MT 59913 // (406) 387-9887 // www.glacierdistilling.com
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who have developed a loyalty to their local distilleries, I think, seldom do it for the prices (of which Glacier’s are still reasonable), but for the solidarity of good people with similar passions. I must acknowledge a mild wonder at the continuous strain of goodness and merriment that seems to invade the people who succeed in micro-distilling, but at the same time a gratefulness for it. This quality is not only
what makes visiting and befriending these many talented people worth the effort and a great memory, but makes buying their product a wholly new and inviting experience. Those who pick up a bottle of Glacier Distillery with any of its labels will not only understand Nic and Lauren’s talent, innovation, and dedication—but in some small and fortunate way, their friendship. photos by Brenda Ahearn
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Cr ater Lake Spirits BEND,OREGON
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Buena Vista, Colorado is a place of contrast.The small mountain town both embraces and fights its place along the backbone of America, residing on the unexpectedly flat and windswept high prairie abutting the rugged mountain peaks that almost surround the city.Visitors to Buena Vista arrive via one of three routes, each a journey through (or over) the high mountain byways that have come to define Colorado as America’s place in the wilderness. The roots of Buena Vista are obvious – the old west architecture in historic downtown, the restored, turnof-the century church that now houses the local visitor’s bureau and Chamber of Commerce. Not so obvious – perhaps because it is unexpected – is the Buena Vista that defies the stereotype. From the new, modern sustainable neighborhood housing development to the thoroughly contemporary opinions and perspectives of many residents, contrasts are discovered around every corner. It’s fitting that Lenny and Amy Eckstein, founders of Deerhammer Distilling, call Buena Vista home. Like their adopted hometown, they – and the distillery they founded – are a complex blend of contrast and compliment. Their company’s namesake was a founding resident of the town, and the distillery’s home is in a restored building in the heart of old town Buena Vista. At first blush, the traditions of the old west, whiskey, and the local saloon create an iconic snapshot almost too easy to accept. As if on cue, a deer wanders across the street, pausing for a moment to turn and face the front door of the distillery. Turns out that the buck’s visit to Deerhammer is not an uncommon event. This was the old west equivalent of running into Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.
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Luc and I met Amy in front of the tasting room on a cold and blustery winter day in late December. We rolled into town after visiting Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, one of several nestled in the mountains above Buena Vista. Our schedule allowed us time to stroll downtown Buena Vista to get a sense of the place. Fifteen minutes into the walk, we were chilled to the bone and camped out in front of the distillery’s front door. We were very happy to see Amy’s warm smile greet us a few minutes early. “You guys look cold,” she laughed, unlocking the door PAGE60 » photos by Luc Nadeau
and graciously welcoming us into the tasting room. While Amy headed into the back to track down Lenny, we settled at a comfortable table in the front and were happily greeted by the third
member of the Deerhammer crew. Rye, we quickly learned, is their canine companion and clearly a fixture at the distillery. No matter who came through the door that evening, Rye was the first to greet the new arrivals
with an enthusiastic hello, tail wagging and rawhide toy at the ready. Lenny came out of the back, immediately putting us at ease and relaxing into a chair at our table. Amy and Lenny make everything seem easy. Their styles – and stories – naturally complement one another, showcasing just how important people and community have been throughout their startup. “Without the community’s support, this wouldn’t have happened,” comments Amy, with Lenny nodding in agreement. “I’m a process guy – I don’t
remember a time when I didn’t have a batch of beer going. Amy – well, she is good at everything I suck at,” he grins. “From running the tasting room to managing the finances to connecting with people, our roles are insanely divided.” Neither of the two set out to create a distillery as part of their grand plan. Amy‘s background is in nursing; Lenny is a graphic designer by trade. Both were very successful, but Lenny has always been a brewer – and a good one to boot. When he found himself in Boston, burned out and out of work as a graphic designer and wondering what his next steps would be, he and Amy headed for Colorado. They loved the Buena Vista area, and
had spent time on the rivers and in the mountains that surround the town. What happened next wasn’t so much fun – a blown-out ACL for Lenny resulted in surgery and the potential for “a long string of very boring weekends.” Not one to sit still for long, Lenny decided to brew his first batch of unboiled, unhopped beer. He had been introduced to distilling by several friends, including Ted Palmer, the owner of Roundhouse Spirits based in Boulder, Colorado. “It was a ways back, but while lending a hand to Ted during his time at Golden City Brewery, he kind of drew me in – sort of helped to activate – the part of me that loves the process of brewing by pointing out the simplicity
of distilling,” Lenny recollects. From there, the path to Deerhammer Distilling was set in stone. Amy and Lenny soon learned that while their path was set, there was no road map to follow on how to open a distillery. They did have good instincts – and a lot of smart thinking – to guide them. The team knew that Buena Vista was home base, but the location for the distillery was critical. They spent time exploring different buildings, from industrial parks to downtown locations, learning right along with the town planner and fire marshal, before ultimately settling on their current location. It has the right mix of
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elements – excellent location for visitor traffic, a vacant lot immediately adjacent, access for equipment and deliveries, and most importantly, “great bones.” The tasting room is in the front of the distillery overlooking downtown, and the distillery operations are located in the back two thirds of the building. The copper still is framed from an open window behind the bar where visitors can take the long view from their seats to see virtually all aspects of how their drink is created. Lenny crafts his batches using a direct-fired, 140-gallon copper pot still he ordered to spec from Arkansas. He sources his grains from a variety of locations, noting that the specialty grains are essential to his approach. He is obsessive over both process and quality throughout, rattling off each detail of every step from memory. Like many startups, there is rarely the luxury of time – and Lenny is keenly aware of the challenges in keeping an operation funded while delivering quality products to his customers. Their first bottling of Downtime Single Malt Whiskey went like wildfire – demand quickly outstripped their production. Taking a cue from history, Lenny began offering “the fresh stuff” – moonshine, new make, single malt vodka – no matter the moniker, Deerhammer released their Whitewater Whiskey, a carefully crafted double-distilled white whiskey. Whitewater doesn’t spend much time lingering around oak; it makes a brief acquaintance and is quickly bottled to capture the essence of the new spirit. The care and precision Lenny uses to create Whitewater shows – there are subtle variations between each bottling, resulting in a surprisingly complex and approachable spirit. The Amy/Lenny team continues to show off its creativity at the bar, offering up new twists on classic cocktails that superbly bring out the highlights in the whiskey. Their bar menu is about as far from the old west as you can get. Every drink is crafted right at the bar, the process of creating the drinks for their customers as compelling as the final product. Visitors get to eye the rack of 30-gallon new oak barrels that hold the next bottling of Downtime Single Malt as they sip on a Green Grind or a White Dog Old Fashioned. Each cocktail uniquely showcases the white whiskey, shattering the constraints of the old west mythology. As Lenny steps away from his post behind the bar to bring out a Green Grind, he comments on how the limitations imposed by process, time, and perception could easily become constraining. “We may not have as much to work with, but as a result, we have to be simple. And the results are delicious.”
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photos by Luc Nadeau
Honey Badger (Build in old fashioned glass) High Roller (Build in mixing glass 1/2 full of ice) 1.5 oz pineapple juice 3/4 oz orgeat syrup 1/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice 2 oz Deerhammer Whitewater Whiskey Shake vigorously in shaker Green Grind tin and pour into (Build in mixing glass) mixing glass, garnish 3 cucumber slices, with orange slice muddled 10 mint leaves, lightly muddled 1/2 oz simple syrup 1 oz apple cider 2.5 oz Deerhammer Whitewater Whiskey 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice Shake with ice, strain well into ice-filled glass, garnish with mint leaf
Moscow Mule Deer (Build in ice â€“filled old fashioned glass or copper tankard)
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2 oz Deerhammer Whitewater Whiskey 2 oz spicy ginger beer 1/2 lime squeezed 1 dash angostura bitters Stir, garnish with lime wedge
3 oz HOT water (pre- steeped with clove, allspice, orange slices, cinnamon) 1 oz local honey 2 oz Deerhammer Whitewater Whiskey 1/3 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice Stir, garnish with cinnamon stick
White Dog Old Fashioned (Build in ice-filled cheater tin)
1 bar spoon simple syrup 2 dashes orange bitter Few drops of Fee Bros. aromatic bitters 2.5 oz Deerhammer Whitewater Whiskey 1/2 oz water Stir, transfer to old fashioned glass with large ice cube, garnish with orange peel twist
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Life as a commercial fisherman in Alaska, particularly during the work season, is spent isolated on boats for weeks on end in some of the world’s harshest conditions. It takes a certain breed to say the least. So when we do make it back to port, it’s often a mad dash to the closest place with a liquor license to regale stories with other fisherman and, of course, partake in the finer things in life. Three years ago, having come ashore with the usual thirst, I noticed an intriguing specimen on the shelves next to the mundane and predictable line-up of spirits. “Alaska Distillery...” it said, “Smoked Salmon Vodka!” Now, if this wasn’t pulling at my heart strings, I didn’t know what could. I demanded PAGE74 » photo by William Lascelles
a ‘taste test’, which eventually turned into ‘the bottle’ for my crew-mates and myself. Since then, Alaska Distillery has made its presence known with bumps from Jay Leno and even Time Magazine. They are now distributing in 14 states.
This past December I went to go see where all the magic happened. Alaska Distillery is situated outside Wasilla, AK.Yes, ‘that Wasilla,’ home of the Sarah Palin family. It’s a sunny 26 degrees below zero outside. I turn
off the main highway and meander down a snow covered road that winds its way past farm houses, pastures, and barns. I could be in any town in middle America if not for the giant peaks that hover around at every turn of the head. Not sure where to park, I call Scott Lindquist, the general manager. “Are you in a 4-wheel drive?” he asks. “Yes.” “Great!” He walks outside in a t-shirt and directs me to a spot with two feet of snow to drive through. Scott greets me with a firm handshake and huge smile. He is in his late 50‘s but has the presence of a twenty-something. “Welcome!” I am directed into a converted airplane hanger. Luckily, its much warmer inside.
illustration by David Maupin
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He offers me a drink. I take a Bloody Mary with their own Smoked Salmon Vodka. My favorite. The first thing that hits is the smoky smell of the drink. It climbs up my nostrils faster than I can say “What the-.” Then it’s the hot sauce and tomato juice, but the thing that really sets this drink apart is the after taste. It’s the ever so subtle, but oh so present linger of salmon! I jokingly ask what he thinks sets Alaska Distilling apart, expecting PAGE82 » photo by William Lascelles
the obvious answer to be something about using crazy products, but he doesn’t go that way at all. “We’re still small. Each batch is made with time and love. We’re not industrial, we’re not institutional. It’s the difference between homemade cookies and ones that come from a tube. It’s love, I don’t know how else to put it.” Scott was once a fisherman himself. I don’t know if it goes hand in hand, but I have never met a
fisherman who didn’t have stories. I guess it’s a way to pass the time while out at sea. Scott was no different. In my short time at the distillery, I learned his life’s story, and probably more. And it was interesting. Being a fisherman is the long and the short of how he came upon working for Alaska Distillery. At some point Scott moved from harvesting fish to harvesting glacier ice for the Japanese. When Toby Foster, the CEO
of Alaska Distillery, heard of this he knew glacier ice would be a great product to use in his vodka. Now, at least 20% of the water used for their distilling comes from glacier ice. Twice a year, Scott and company climb aboard a fishing vessel and harvest 10,000 pounds of floating glacier ice for Alaska Distillery. “Glacier ice represents the purity of Alaska.You can see pockets of air in that ice that hasn’t been
exposed for thousands of years. It’s incredible!” Since placing their signature vodka, ‘Permafrost,’ on the shelf three years ago, Alaska Distilling has branched out to include eleven other vodkas, ‘Bristol Bay Gin,’ and a local favorite, ‘Alaska Outlaw Whiskey.’ “We work really fast around here. If we want something done, we just make it happen. But we won’t put it on the shelf until we know it’s a
quality product that someone would want to buy twice.” Amazingly, all the ingredients Alaska Distillery use come from within the state, including potatoes, honey, smoked salmon, birch syrup, fireweed, rhubarb, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries, with the exception of hemp seed, which comes from nearby British Columbia.Yes, I said hemp. Alaska Distillery has created a unique
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photo by William Lascelles
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hemp seed spirit called ‘Purgatory,’ that only they have the rights for producing. “It doesn’t take any super brains to distill!” He laughs again. “We just want to keep doing something the next guy isn’t and I think that’s easy in Alaska. In one day, I can leave and come back with 10,000 pounds of glacier ice. In the winter time I drive my snowmachine to Wasilla for groceries. Alaska is the last frontier. It represents purity. I can’t imagine doing this in Oakland, California!” To punctuate that statement he brings out a last bottle for a taste test. The label is hand written and reads, ‘Chocolate Malt Balls.’ He pours two tasters and tells me this one is just an experiment. I tip it back and sure enough, chocolate takes over. Scott is a very humble man, but there is a sense that they know they are doing something special here. The way he glows when telling a story, or pours a drink, it’s easy to see he really enjoys his work. “...That’s love!”
photo by William Lascelles
PAGE92 Âť photos by Brenda Ahearn
Yahara Bay Distillers, an award-winning Madison, Wisconsinbased artisan distillery, officially released in November 2012, its new spirit: Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka, featuring a customcreated art label by contemporary Brazilian painter Jonatas Chimen. The product unites the two art forms: artisanal (small batch) distilling and contemporary art. Jonatas Chimen, a Brazilian-born artist and now an art specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, incorporates a mix of contemporary and classical styles into his work, which has subtle influences of political science, philosophy, psychology and history. He is an alumni of the Art Institute of Weston and a former student of Conchita Firgau, a graduate from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, whose fellow alumni include Salvador Dali and Picasso. “For the chai tea vodka, I wanted to paint something that represented the luscious flavor of chai tea in abstract form, but that would also influence the mood and give the sense of interior calmness,” said Chimen. “When we created this partnership, I was excited to expand the horizons of what a painting can usually achieve, and to show that fine art – even with a classic technique – can exist outside the art gallery.” PAGE94 |
Photo Courtesy of Yahara Bay Distillers From Left: Jill Skowronski, Artist Jonatas Chimen, Catherine Forde Quint, Nick Quint, Lars Forde
Yahara Bay’s partnership with renowned Brazilian artist Chimen speaks to the company’s deep support of the local community and local arts.Yahara Bay’s on-site gallery showcases the works of some of the Midwest’s emerging artists. The distiller hosts a weekly Public House/Artgallery event every Thursday evening for tastings and tours. “The blending of art forms is a growing concept,” said Nick Quint, owner and founder of Yahara Bay Distillers. “When we met Jonatas, and saw his artwork in our gallery, his unique style and personality was a perfect match for what our family-run distillery wanted to accomplish for this product. This union is a natural fit, as we both embrace the creativity and spirit of our craft.”
ingredients, such as grains, fruits and herbs. The company often experiments with flavors and combinations, which is how it arrived at the concept for its chai tea vodka during a fundraiser at a local community event. Yahara Bay’s Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka is available for purchase through authorized distributors and will offer bottles signed by the artist at various launch parties throughout the U.S.Yahara Bay plans to commission two additional paintings from Chimen for future product releases, including red pepper-infused vodka, set to launch in early 2013. For more information on Seraphine, visit www.yaharabay.com.
Since its inception in 2007,Yahara Bay has crafted its premium spirits in small batches to ensure quality, using its 90-gallon copper still, and incorporating fresh, local
MicroShiner.com | PAGE95
PAGE96 Âť photo by Brenda Ahearn
Hidden Marsh Distillery Small Batch, Hand-Crafted Spirits
Judd’s Wreckin’ Ball
Whiskey Advocate Rating 84 Corn Whiskey Vodka, Whiskey, Brandy & Liqueurs! Produced and bottled by:
Hidden Marsh Distillery, Seneca Falls NY (315) 568-8190 or visit www.beevodka.com Also available at Borisal Wine & Liquor Brooklyn, NY or order online at www.DrinkUpNY.com
PAGE98 Âť photo by Vincent Buckley | VBuckley.com
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