Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Copperworks. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Micah Nutt and Jason Parker founded Copperworks Distilling Co. in Seattle in 2013, tasking the name from the traditional copper stills made in Scotland that they prefer to use. The two still serve as co-owners (Nutt is the distiller), and were rewarded for their efforts in 2018 when Copperworks was named Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute.
Continuing with the Scottish theme in the Pacific Northwest, Copperworks specializes in single malt whiskies – along with an assortment of gins and vodkas. And in recent years, the Copperworks single malts have shown an inclination for using peat harvested from Washington State lakebeds. Of the distillery’s catalog of 42 American Single Malt releases, nos. 034, 036, 040, and now 042 have been peated whiskies.
My colleague Jerry Jenae Sampson reviewed Release No. 041 a few weeks ago, which is not peated. But it featured the idiosyncratic blending and aging techniques for which the distillery is quickly becoming known, and Sampson declared it one of her favorite whiskies of the year.
Release No. 042 is a blend of six casks, down from the nine that made up Release No. 041. Each of the half-dozen casks, according to the tasting notes, “was brewed and distilled with 100% of the Copeland variety of barley that was grown in Washington’s Skagit Valley and then smoked during the malting process with peat from a lakebed on the Olympic Peninsula.”
Copperworks appears to be open to innovation and change in more than just its whiskies. It recently announced plans for a restaurant, bar, and event space in Kenmore, north of Seattle.
Tasting Notes: Copperworks American Single Malt Release No. 042
Vital stats: Mash bill of 100% peated malted barley. Aged for at least five years; 101 proof/51% alcohol by volume; $76.49 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Deep topaz, almost orange.
Nose: If you read “peated” on the label and expect something approaching Islay Scotch, you’ll be surprised by this whiskey. It carries none of the heavy smoke and peat scents of those iconic whiskies. This is spicy and reminiscent of citrus; think orange peel, cantaloupe, and over-ripe pear, with the barest hint of a smoke wisp.
Palate: As it was on the nose, the flavor is nothing like heavily peated Scotch. It’s light, fruity and spicy, if anything. For me, it brought to mind prunes, fig newtons, roasted almonds, cinnamon-sugar French toast, and salted caramel.
My fellow Whiskey Wash reviewer Jerry Jenae Sampson referred to Copperworks American Single Malt Release No. 041 as “radiating confidence.” That struck me as a strange turn of phrase when I read it, but I think I understand what she meant after sampling Release No. 042. We drink a lot of startup whiskies in this role, and you can often taste when a distiller is still working out the kinks in his/her process and flavor profile. Copperworks exhibits none of that. Nutt and Parker exhibit a practiced hand and distinct vision that is impressive.
Bottom line: This is a good whiskey, made all the more compelling by the fact that it comes with an interesting story to tell your friends while you pour it – a Seattle single malt made with barley and peat from the state of Washington.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual...