Whisky Review: Spirit Hound Distillers Straight Malt Whisky

A few years ago, Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons, Colorado, became the latest American distillery to release a whiskey that had survived a natural disaster. Like Hudson’s “Double-Charred” whiskey (which lived through a fire) and E.H. Taylor’s “Tornado Surviving” bourbon, Spirit Hound’s Straight Malt Whisky went through the ringer—in this case, the September, 2013 floods that destroyed and damaged thousands of homes in the Rocky Mountain state. The distillery has bounced back from the damage they suffered in the flood, and released a second batch of single malt last year.

Microbrewery-crazy Colorado is home to one of the busier craft distilling scenes in the country; Stranahan’s, in Denver, is a veteran in that world, with a venerable history dating to 2004. Six-year-old Spirit Hound, like AD Laws and Feisty Spirits, is a relative newcomer.

Spirit Hound Straight Malt Whisky is 100% malted barley, some of which is peated. The distillery only sells it as a single-barrel expression, with each bottle labeled with barrel and bottle numbers, and amazingly, you can find tasting notes for each individual barrel on their website. They’ve also compiled keywords from the notes in a neat, if rather eye-watering word cloud that links you to barrels tagged with certain keywords—so if you click “orange,” for example, you’re directed to barrels 20 and 33, whose tasting notes both point out orange notes.

I got the chance to sample from barrel 8. Unfortunately, I don’t get to tell any stories about how this whiskey survived a flood—only barrels 1 and 2 get that distinction. This one was released in April, 2016, meaning it was distilled and put up for aging in 2014.

Spirit Hound Straight Malt Whisky

Spirit Hound Straight Malt Whisky (image via Spirit Hound)

Tasting Notes: Spirit Hound Distillers Straight Malt Whisky

Vital stats: 100% malted barley, including “a touch” of peated malt. Aged for two years in new, charred American oak. Around $60.

Color: Light amber

Nose: Quite sweet, verging on raw when I first pour it, with butterscotch, molasses, and sweet caramel. There’s also substantial warm spice. Some grain and tropical fruit notes open up after a few minutes in the glass, giving the impression of banana and honey on whole wheat toast, with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Palate: Opens with butterscotch and caramel, plus some more spice than I got on the nose. A little grain on the mid-palate, followed by wood on the finish.

The Takeaway

Overall, I find this whisky a little underdeveloped and lacking in cohesion. I can't quite get over the intense butterscotchiness of the nose; it just comes across as a little raw for my taste, lacking the depth of some of the better American malt whiskeys out there. I'd be curious to try a sample from a more recent barrel, to see how this whiskey is evolving over time. I can see good things in Spirit Hound's future, but based on this sample, at least, there's work to be done.

3.0
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About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.