Editor’s Note: The Whiskey Wash is proud to present its first whiskey review for your consideration. We would also love your feedback on the format of how it is presented – thank you!
Serving up a little Mischief is all in a day’s work at the Fremont Mischief distillery in Seattle, Washington. In the 1990s, old traditions and good friends combined forces in a quintessential tale of American ingenuity. Today, Mischief has become a distillery for the modern age. According to owner and distiller Mike Sherlock, their proprietary still “removes impurities, unpleasant tastes and fusel oils to concentrate pure spirits in such a way as to retain a slight sweet character of the grain.”
Mischief also operates with an environmental and social conscience. Using locally sourced grain from Washington and Oregon – as much of it organically grown as possible – Mischief keeps their ingredients fresh and local, and their footprint small. They give their spent grains back to the farms for reuse. Where, then, you might ask, is the Mischief?
The Mischief, it seems, is all in the bottle. Not short on humor (the whole idea for the distillery was sparked by an immense practical joke), the Fremont Mischief distillery teases out the characteristics of each grain, playing them against each other to make unique expressions. In 2013, Mischief released their John Jacob Handmade Rye offering, both as an homage to the distiller’s forefather, and a bold entrance into the burgeoning American rye market.
Color: The first trick is on the eyes – the John Jacob Rye is a dark honey color in the bottle, turning a lighter sunshine in the glass.
Nose: Coming in at 90% Pacific Northwest rye, the whiskey promises to be spicy. The first impression on the nose, however, is alcohol. At just 80 proof, this is a little surprising, but short-lived. The sharpness is softened by the addition of 10% malted barley, and the nose segues from turpentine, through oak, and on to cinnamon, with a hint of burnt sugar.
Palate: On the palate, the alcohol is still lively, but not biting, like other young ryes. The cinnamon stick hallmark of the grain is strong, mellowed with ample vanilla, forest honey and – just at the tail – a trace of chamomile.
Finish: The finish melts into orange peel, fruitwood and ginger, before evaporating rather quickly, leaving one with the unexpected sensation of having just put down a hot toddy. Now that is a bit of Mischief.
Score: Like the man for whom it was named, the John Jacob Handmade Rye is adventurous without being overbearing. Compared to similarly priced spirits, the John Jacob has more subtlety than Bulleit 95, and more depth than Angel’s Envy. Coming in at a very respectable score of 89 points, the John Jacob is a bold statement with an honest smile – a little bit reckless, a little bit sweet. A mischievous dram that raises the bar for artisinal rye.