Bear Creek Distillery, opened in the fall of 2014, has been quietly but consistently releasing small batch craft spirits through its Denver, Colorado, tasting room, and slowly but surely on to the shelves of better liquor stores throughout Colorado. We were excited to see their first single barrel release come across the desk here at The Whiskey Wash, especially with such lofty proclamations of handmade artisanship through their branding.
According to the folks at Bear Creek, they “use local ingredients and materials sourced from Colorado companies” when possible. Like many other small craft distilleries, Bear Creek seems committed to community involvement, local ingredients, and hands-on microbatches. Bear Creek’s portfolio flaunts a rye vodka, wheated whiskey, and promises both straight and wheated bourbons down the road in addition to the rye on today’s table.
Bear Creek Distillery Rye Whiskey is a young whiskey crafted in single batches from organic dark rye and then aged in American white oak barrels. The final product is watered down to 90 proof, and while it certainly embraces the characteristic gruffness of the style, lacks the balance that would make it a neat sipper. I’d not hesitate to call rye whiskeys ‘angular,’ however, the best examples in the category provide a balance which leaves the drinker with few criticisms upon waterless consumption.
Tasting Notes: Bear Creek Distillery Rye Whiskey
Vital Stats: 90 proof. Made from 100% organic dark rye. House distilled. This bottle is from Batch 1, distilled by “AH” and aged 19 months. $62 for a 750ml.
Appearance: Paler shade of orange than I’m used to, but concentrated volume in the bottle gives it a more peachy hue. In the glass, totally pallid notes of yellow-brown with wavey wisps of amber.
Nose: Unique and interesting. Initially, a grappa-like heat invades the nostrils, but then nuances of leather wineskin and Spanish coffee leap forward. There is a pronounced dusty note of cacao husk present. The aroma of this whiskey does not come equipped with training wheels at all; we’re dealing with big, serious rye here.
Palate: Initial palate hit is extremely bitter with lingering buttery notes. The rye character is not quite as peppery as expected; instead it starts with a fiery astringency and leads in to a burnt sugar-laden finish. Burnt caramel, peanut butter, and green, grassy, plant-like notes round out the taste experience here. A bit of sweetness would go a long way to balance out the overall straight sipping enjoyment here, however the drier profile makes it a great candidate for Old Fashioneds, as their website suggests.
Someone put a lot of love and care in to this rye, and the breadth of flavor surely indicates that. However balance is lacking, which seriously limits the applications of a $62 bottle of whiskey. I feel guilty mixing it, yet I feel unsatisfied drinking it neat, or even with a splash or cube. Only time will tell, and a more delicately balanced hand will encourage this new offering to improve over their initial growth period. More barrels will allow the distillers here to choose single barrel releases based on cohesiveness instead of brash boldness and unexpected flavors.
On my list to revisit future batches, as it should be on yours.