Monday, June 6, 2011

Great Lakes Tries New Approach To “The Whiskey Problem.”

Great Lakes Distillery (GLD) is a Milwaukee micro-distillery, located on the edge of the Walkers Point neighborhood just south of downtown. You can see the Harley Museum from there.

Founder Guy Rehorst, distiller Doug MacKenzie, and their team are cool people who have done a great job making interesting products and winning the loyalty of local drinkers.

Like every micro, GLD has wrestled with ‘the whiskey problem,’ namely; whiskey is by definition aged in oak, almost always for years and years. For a variety of reasons, mostly financial, few micros have figured out how to make that happen.

GLD has come up with its own, unique solution called Kinnickinnic Whiskey. The word means ‘mixture’ in the Ojibwe tongue. Specifically, it refers to the mixture of tobacco and other plant materials used for ceremonial smoking. It’s also a common place name in Wisconsin.

GLD’s Kinnickinnic Whiskey, therefore, is a blended whiskey that combines Kentucky straight bourbon with malt whiskey distilled by Great Lakes. The bourbon distiller, though undisclosed, is not another micro. It’s one of the big guys.

"Straight" means the bourbon is at least two years old. They don’t say how old the malt is. Based on the taste, not very.

The best use for these very vegetal, very young whiskeys is in cocktails, where a skillful mixologist can both temper and complement their sharp edges. That’s true in this case as well.

It’s 90° in Chicago today, so I tried a whiskey sour. Excellent! Delicious! Perfectly enjoyable!

I was afraid the whiskey would be overpowering but I stuck to a standard recipe. Next time I’ll probably up the whiskey a little, because it blended so nicely into the drink. I’ll probably also hit it with my usual dash of cherry bitters, which I omitted for fear the whiskey itself would make it bitter enough.

Neat, it’s not so enjoyable. It’s hot with a very strong, white dog flavor. It’s as well made as such a thing can be. There’s just no getting around its youth. To 'Kinnickinnic' it a little more by adding some other ingredients is the key, and at $29 a 750 ml you won’t feel like you’re paying way too much for a mixing whiskey.


Matt Lange said...

I had no idea Great Lakes was releasing a whiskey. Interesting approach, I'll have to try it out.
I guess the question would be, is it better than a straight bourbon at a comparable price? And if not, why blend a straight bourbon with an inferior product?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Even though it's a bourbon/malt blend, you can use it in cocktails the way you would a straight rye.

Guy Rehorst said...

Matt, we didn't want to just bottle someones whiskey. We wanted to create a unique product, and a product that is our own. We painstakingly tried a lot of blends and settled on this one which uses several unique malts. When you try it let us know what you think.