Whiskey Review: Brother Justus Single Malt American Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Brother Justus Single Malt American Whiskey

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Brother Justus Whiskey Company. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

While I’ve already been excited about how many new whiskeys I’ve been able to sample from my native region in the upper Midwest, Minnesota-based Brother Justus Whiskey Company stands apart in that they found a heck of a local story to build their brand upon.

Operating out of Minneapolis’ Nordeast neighborhood in a “spare concrete space…in an old industrial building,” as City Pages put it, the founders of the distillery report having deep roots that go back to the center of the state where one Brother Justus lived about a century ago.

As with the stories of many recent distilleries, Brother Justus’ story begins during Prohibition, specifically in the counties north and west of St. Cloud – which is northwest of the Twin Cities.

While the Roaring Twenties was a prosperous time for much of the country, this area of rural Minnesota was going through a recession, according to the distillery, and many people in the area reportedly turned to illegal distilling to make ends meet. It turns the German- and Polish-Catholic farmers of this section of Minnesota, specifically Stearns County, produced what was reportedly among the best moonshines in the country, called Minnesota 13.

Brother Justus – a monk at the Benedictine Saint John’s Abbey (and now University) near Collegeville who doubled as the local tinsmith – identified with these farmers and took it upon himself to manufacture them copper stills over “many a night,” according to a chapter of an unnamed and undated book posted in digital form on the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University’s website. The book and other sources give Justus’ stills much of the credit for this area’s coveted moonshine.

While founder Phil Steger was inspired to start the distillery while sipping bourbon in Louisville, Kent., Brother Justus’ story wasn’t far from his mind, having graduated from Saint John’s University, according to The Northeaster.

Brother Justus starts with barley that’s malted in Minnesota. They make it into beer onsite, then distill it into whiskey. Some of that fresh distillate is than bottled as their Silver single malt, and the rest goes into locally grown and assembled oak casks for an unspecified time period before finally being bottled at 86 proof. 

Brother Justus Single Malt American Whiskey

Brother Justus Single Malt American Whiskey (image via Brother Justus)

Tasting Notes: Brother Justus Single Malt American Whiskey

Vital stats: Made from a mash bill of pure barley, fermented and distilled onsite, and aged in Minnesota oak for an unspecified length of time. The final product product comes in at about 43% ABV and goes for about $50 per bottle.

Appearance: Both in the bottle and a in a glass, this single malt has a brownish bronze hue. However, the color leans toward coppery red when viewed through the figurative prism of the bottle (round and decidedly not prism-like) and a bit more on the amber through the glass.

Nose: The first sniff gently wafts into the nasal passages like a rich, mellow vanilla – a bit smoky but not enough to push into the slightly burnt scent that would push me toward caramel. That develops mildly spicy notes that shift the bouquet toward butterscotch, with notes of oak, hazelnut, sweet apple, and banana.

Palate: Entry hits the tongue on with another vanilla flavor, this time much brighter and more acidic with green apple adding an unusually tart character to the flavor profile, with touches of almond, raisin, and oak. That remains relatively constant over time as a cinnamon flavor gradually builds into a mild tingle on the tongue. That builds into a moderate wave of nutty cinnamon upon swallowing, and eventually fades out into vanilla-apple combination the debuted on the tongue.

The Takeaway


While I admire the consistency achieved from the beginning of the palate until the end, the acidic and sour notes didn’t work so well for me. That tart element of the flavor profile went a bit too far afield and detracted too much from the other characteristics of the dram. More aging might tone that element down – and obviously a distillery has a tough choice to make in the early days – and I look forward to seeing what Brother Justus does in the in the future.

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