Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.
Oregon’s Rogue Brewery (of Dead Guy Ale fame) is known for a few things in the local beverage community: a huge product line, a perplexing fondness for novelty flavors, and a dogmatic attitude towards…well, basically everything. Take, for example, the “Rogue’s Fundamental Agreement,” a series of mission-like statements that sound more like the guiding principles of a strange war cult than a corporate vision. (Statement 1: The way is clear; Statement 2: Be honest about the battlefield; Statement 5: Go to the front of the fight and stay there.)
Taking my cues from Rogue, I’m going to be honest about the battlefield you’ll experience if you decide to sample their latest release in their oft-maligned spirits line: Rogue Chipotle Whiskey. This is a distressing cacophony of a spirit, and I honestly can’t fathom why it got made (A joke? A dare? A terrible mistake?). It reads like a prank and tastes like a Bloody Mary, with all the good parts removed.
For the unfamiliar, chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapenos. They’re a delicious addition to a pot of black beans or a bowl of chili, but definitely represent a departure from the classic whiskey flavor profile. Rogue’s marketing materials inform us that estate-grown chipotle peppers were infused into this whiskey three times during its manufacture: during mash-making, during distillation and in the barrel itself during the aging process.
A recent story we ran on the origins of the whiskey indicates it was distilled from the beer wash of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale, and that its malt profile includes ingredients grown by Rogue themselves. There’s no age statement on the bottle, but judging by the color of the whiskey (and what I know of Rogue’s spirits program), I imagine that process was quite short.
Color: Light, glowing yellow, about the same color as a pilsner beer.
Flavor: Very light oak vanilla and milk caramel are quickly lost against a thick wall of smoky chipotle flavor. This tastes just like that brick-red Chipotle Tabasco sauce, which I love on scrambled eggs, but have so far refrained from adding to my Manhattans. The spice definitely builds over time and between sips, finally finishing with a faintly melon-cucumber note that isn’t totally horrible.
This is a ridiculous whiskey that I can’t really take seriously. Unfortunately, it carries a serious price (in Oregon, $47.75 for a 750ml bottle), making this a tough sell for anybody except the most die-hard hot sauce lover or quality-agnostic novelty seeker.
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...