Whiskey Review: Great Lakes Kinnickinnic Whiskey

Great Lakes Kinnickinnick Whiskey

Photo by Will Meek. Image copyright The Whiskey Wash.

There is a classic scene in Wayne’s World where Wayne and Garth go backstage at the Alice Cooper show in Milwaukee. In short order, Alice schools the guys in the history of the region and proper pronunciation of the city: “mil-ee-wah-kay” which means “the great land.” After receiving this bottle from this Milwaukee, Wisconsin distillery for review, I quickly needed Alice Cooper’s help to do it justice, and found that “kin-i-kuh-nik” is an Ojibwe word for “what is mixed.”

Great Lakes Distillery was founded in 2004 and got production going in 2006, ahead of the curve in terms of the craft distilling boom in the States. They have staked their identity on being an independent, small batch distillery, focusing on “old-world methods.” Currently, they produce a range of spirits, from the obvious vodka and rums, to more uncommon absinthe and pumpkin spirit.

As for whiskey, Great Lakes has a variety of releases. Menomonee Valley is a straight bourbon with an impressive-for-craft-distilling 7yr age statement. They also have a straight rye, and a version of Kinnickinnic finished in win casks. Kinnickinnic whiskey itself is a blend of a straight bourbon from an unnamed large producer, and malt and rye whiskeys from their shop.

Tasting Notes: Great Lakes Kinnickinnic Whiskey

Vital Stats: 86 proof, no age statement, $45 for 750ml

Appearance: Pours copper-gold with light orange highlights, and retains a thick skyline, giving way to thin, slow legs.

Nose: The nose is dominated by round notes of flavored tobacco, pipe smoke, and wet grains. There is no heat, making it easy to explore, although it is not the most inviting aspect of this whiskey.

Palate: On the tongue, there are a range of agricultural flavors like tobacco leaf, grass seed, and hay, with some hints of tangerine, cereal, and oak. It is a fairly sweet, malty, and earthy pour that is slightly warm and has a light-medium body. This finishes medium-long, with sweet corn and boozy heat stretching out the experience. Slightly drying.

The Takeaway

This is certainly a unique whiskey. The blending has created a spirit with several layers, that after multiple pours, can start to be sorted out. The leafy/earthy/vegetal qualities were the most prominent for me, and that is not what I usually the profile I want when I'm looking to really sip something. Given that, I would recommend this as a unique contribution to cocktails.

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Will Meek