Alternative Flavored Hopped Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Alternative Flavored Hopped Whiskey

By Patrick Girard / September 7, 2020

The use of plants and plant extracts is growing in brown spirits categories and recipes multiply for the production of alternative flavored whiskey such as hopped whisk(e)y. Hop(s) brings several advantages, being able to contribute to premiumization of the ‘terroir’ concept because a hop crop is easily locally sourced for an organic label. 

Process

Hopped whiskeys are produced thanks to a high-quality standard raising the level of distilling expertise, knowledge and innovation. Given that, these flavored whiskeys meet the quality standard of craft distilled spirits. It is clear-cut today that young whiskeys are gaining in quality thanks to better production techniques.

Several hop preparations mixed with different processes allow the hopped whiskey flavor to diversify. Beside known use of a basket gin in the still to extract aroma condensing farther in the coil, other methods exist deriving from beer process.

hopped whiskey

Charbay’s hopped whiskey (image via Charbay)

Main marketed forms are dry hop cones or pellets or even hop plugs. Dry hopping corresponds to the addition of hops as a post alcoholic fermentation step for a steeping time of 3 to 5 days in the fermented mash. Longer time would lead to higher herbal notes and possibly bittering detrimental to floral or citrus ones when sought. For consistency purposes, using only one variety allows achievement of best results. About 80 varieties are available. 

But, steeping with dried hops is possible in distillates as well. In this case, to get rid of the plant remains needs either an additional distillation or a filtration step. Finally, a method consisting with the addition of hop extracts as oil leads to a simpler process and easier way to standardize the use of hop without altering the final quality level and without any bitterness.

Products

One of the first interesting hopped whiskeys was released in 2013 with Charbay’s R5 release N° 4, brewed from an IPA beer at 7 % alc/vol by the Charbay Distillery and aged in French oak for 29 months. Its hoppy character gives a nose of orange and clove notes and smoky hints. In 2014 was released Hopped Wigle Whiskey (Wigle Distillery) and in the same year Sons of Liberty Spirits Co. won ‘Best Flavored Whiskey’ in World Whiskies Awards with its unique spirit Summer Release Hop flavored whiskey. 

Among more recent releases, several brands display a wide array of aromatic notes. Hopped whiskey tastes unique with emphasized floral notes you never find in other similar drinks. And, several distilleries are currently marketing brands of hop(s) used in their process.

  • Hatter Royale/Hopped Whiskey, released from 2017, is brewed and distilled by New Holland Artisan Spirits, owned by New Holland Brewing Company. The new make is achieved after a double distillation of a 100% malted barley wash, with the hops bringing subtle floral notes with some vanilla-reminiscent spicy hints.
  • 2x hopped hop flavored whiskey from the Southern Tier distilling Company is hopped after fermentation. It received in 2018 the Silver Medal of The American Distilling Institute at a tasting competition. This spirit displays characteristics of piney hop flavor.
  • Pursuit Dry Hopped Whiskey from Pursuit Distilling Co. was released in 2018. It makes use of a Washington variety hop steeping in the mash bill, giving this flavored whiskey its hoppy character. Yet, this spirit displays  many features of a malted barley whiskey. It is aged one year in oak barrel, offering smoothness, complex flavors and characteristic hop notes to give it its taste signature.
  • Double Mountain Hopped Whiskey. co-developed by Double Mountain Brewery and Hood River Distillers, is a 100% corn whiskey. Bright and fresh flavors reminiscent of citrus and unique floral notes give to this flavored whiskey its character. It received an award in 2019 with the gold of the Best in Class at Whiskies of World.
  • BC Hopped Whisky, distilled by the Okanagan spirits craft distillery (2018 and 2019 releases), is made using 100% locally sourced Okanagan malted barley. In addition, it displays intense citrus and floral notes beside additional stewed fruits aroma and hints of vanilla and caramel. Finally, hops added prior to the fermentation step into the wash is the flavoring process of this brand.
  • Corsair Centennial hopped Whiskey released in 2020 three different products from the Corsair Artisan Distilleries. Their flavors range from a sweet nose of roses to orange marmalade, mixed with malt notes.

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