Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Spirit Hound. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
What do bees have to do with whiskey? At Spirit Hound in Lyons, Colorado, Craig Engelhorn, co-owner and head distiller, loans barrels to a local apiary to add something a little extra to both of their products. Used whiskey barrels are employed at Bee Squared apiary. They age raw honey for three months, rotating the barrels daily to amp up the infusion. The apiary releases the honey as a special whiskey-infused product.
When the emptied barrels are returned to Spirit Hound, they refill the barrels with their straight malt, letting the whiskey infuse for 90 days. The honey barrel finishing infuses the whiskey with aromas of raw honey. The result adds just a touch of flavor and suggestion of sweetness to the finished product, the Spirit Hound Colorado Honey Straight Malt Whisky.
Spirit Hound was established in 2012 out of a “desire to produce an original Colorado straight malt whisky.” While most craft distillers begin production by selling whiskeys distilled elsewhere to build capital in the short term, from the beginning, Spirit Hound’s goal was to distill whiskey in house. The distillery uses barley grown and malted in Colorado, a small portion of which is peated. The result is double distilled through copper stills the founders made by hand.
The whiskey is aged for at least two years in new American oak barrels. Each bottling is released as a single barrel so you’re likely to find a fair amount of variation in the releases. This fact is played up in the tasting room where flights from different barrels are on offer.
Tasting Notes: Spirit Hound Colorado Honey Straight Malt Whisky
Vital Stats: Minimum two years, aged in new American oak barrel and finished in honey barrels, 45% ABV, mash bill: 100% Colorado-grown barley, SRP $65/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: In color, the Spirit Hound Colorado Honey Straight Malt Whisky is moderate golden-orange with burnt sienna undertone.
Nose: Aromas of candied orange peels, fresh tangerines, fresh cream, and charcoal offset more herbal aromas of toasted basil, powdered ginger, and a hint of peat. There’s a nice tropical suggestion to the nose, showing notes of papaya and green pineapple.
Palate: The Spirit Hound Colorado Honey Straight Malt Whisky has flavors of pineapple, raw honey, and powdered ginger. The whiskey is full-bodied with a refreshing spiciness that keeps the mouthfeel from becoming heavy. It leaves a good impression of orange marmalade on toast. This is a very straightforward whiskey that seems flawlessly executed.
I am impressed by the complexity of the aromatics and the flavors of the Spirit Hound Colorado Honey Straight Malt Whisky. All the pieces are evident yet well integrated: the hint of peat, the single malt whiskey, and the note of honey. The finish is long and refreshing. One might expect it to be cloying, but this is deftly executed, dry, and balanced. Give it several minutes to open up in the glass and serve neat or on the rocks. I could see this pairing well with cheeses, savory profiteroles, or vanilla ice cream. This would be fun in a cocktail with honey, such as a Hot Toddy or Gold Rush.
User Review5 (1 vote)
Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...