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.
Made by Santa Fe Spirits, Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey is one of a handful of true American single malts, and perhaps the one that comes closest to capturing a true American terroir. Made from a combination of 70% malted barley and 30% mesquite-smoked malted barley, Colkegan is aged in used bourbon barrels in a warehouse that experiences tremendous fluctuations in temperature and humidity, accelerating the aging process.
Because it’s made in New Mexico it can’t really be called Scotch, but Colkegan comes pretty darn close. Santa Fe Spirits is owned by an English expat, and everything about the packaging and brand design evokes the Scotch aesthetic. Even the name (derived from the owner’s, Colin Kegan) calls up misty moors and seaweed-clogged fishing harbors, not the spare high desert of the American Southwest.
Aroma: The spirit inside is definitely worth a taste. Pale honey in the glass, the nose is surprisingly ethereal: macadamia nut brittle, vanilla, cherry, ozone, grape Pixie Stick, cut hay, and strawberry all set in a powdery, chalky backdrop.
Palate: The initial flavors are also on the delicate side: black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, almond, light toffee, and slightly underripe raspberry transition into a firmer midpalate that actually tastes a lot like late spring in the Pacific Northwest: grass, wet garden, barbecue, and damp pavement. The only off-note I detect is a sort of sodden ashen quality to the midpalate, like a grill that needs to be cleaned.
Finish: The finish is long and meaty with leather and sandalwood as well as a pronounced yet pleasant acidity.
Overall: I enjoyed this whiskey a lot: 90 points.
Colkegan somehow manages to be simultaneously delicate and assertive, elegant and brash. It’s bottled at 92 proof and available for around $50 a bottle, depending on your market. You may also be able to buy it online directly from the distillery for shipment to certain states.