Aug 5, 2017

Visiting Do Good Distillery visit and Beechwood Smoked Whisky...

Do Good Distillery // July 2017

I still have no idea how we ended up climbing over the barrels with a valinch (or "the thief" as it is called in Do Good Distillery) in our hands pulling samples from the casks not even twenty minutes after we met Jim Harrelson but it happened... The whole visit was unbelievably fun, very spontaneous and casual but incredibly educational and informative at the same time... Ok, let me rewind the timeline a bit here: I first met Andrew Bennett, Do Good Distillery's sales manager and brand ambassador last year at Whisky Live Los Angeles. After sampling the entire line-up and chatting for a while he invited me to visit the distillery and to see the operation firsthand which I happily accepted. But unfortunately it took way longer than I thought to hop in our car and drive up to Modesto, CA. Nonetheless, almost nine months after this conversation this July we finally made it up there to meet Jim Harrelson. We quickly introduced ourselves to each other, shook hands and all of a sudden one of the best distillery visits I have ever had started right there...

Jim Harrelson and "the thief" // July 2017
Jim is coming from a home-brewer background and he is now the head distiller, operations manager and the head of product development in Do Good Distillery. He also is the current president of the California Artisanal Distiller's Guild (CADG). He is a sober minded and passionate individual, he is very idealistic about distilling and cares great deal about the industry and the community.

Like any other craft distillery doing well these days Do Good Distillery is in the middle of an expansion and trying to deal with the growing pains but the future looks pretty bright for them. New climate controlled warehouses located in the same compound are up and running already, they are waiting for the new stills to arrive and to be installed and they have a pretty sizeable inventory aging in barrels. In addition to their current line-up Jim and his team experiment with all kind of spirit types, with alternative cut points and different cask types. The warehouse is full with rye, bourbon and single malt whiskies as well as some sojus distilled from sweet potato, rums, rice whiskies and hopped whiskies aging in barrels. You name it...

Do Good Distillery // July 2017
Because we were very curious about the aging sojus we started from there. And I have to say I was way more impressed than I thought I will be. They definitely need more time in those casks but you can taste the potential. The spirit was sweet, earthy and floral. Another experiment they run in the distillery is aging foreshots and feints. They monitor closely how they age in casks and react with wood in long term. Jim thinks that they might add some interesting layers in his single malt blends if they age for a long time in barrels.

Do Good Distillery // July 2017

But the best was saved for the last: Two single malt whisky casks, one 66 gallon ex-Oloroso hogshead and one 53 gallon ex-bourbon barrel... The samples we pulled out of these two casks left me absolutely speechless. Very different from each other, one peaty, the other one not peaty, fully matured, not overly oaked, textured and almost ready to be bottled. Well, it turned out that it wasn't a simple happy coincidence of course. Jim knew exactly what he was going for. Apparently these two casks belong to a pack of six to eight casks he was keeping an eye on for quiet some time. They are already selected for a limited release planned to be bottled sometime late fall or early winter this year. If the rest of those casks are half as good as these two a hell of a release is waiting for us... Watch the space folks, and watch it closely. You really don't want to miss this one. We did a quick blending experiment with the samples we pulled from those two casks right there on the spot and it was good... Very good... Like I said, it will be something...

line-up in the tasting room // July 2017

After hours when finally we felt like it was the time to get out of there and leave Jim in peace we ended up picking the Nighthawk Bourbon, California Wheat Bourbon and Beechwood Smoked Whisky. Today I will start to write down the tasting notes for Beechwood Smoked Whisky and the other two will follow soon again here on tire-bouchon.

Do Good Distillery Beechwood Smoked Whisky (45.55%): This is one of the single malt whiskies from Do Good Distillery's current line-up. It is distilled from 100% beechwood smoked malted barley. It is aged for 18 months in new American Oak Barrels and my bottle indicates batch no. 4 and bottle no. 382 on its label.

Color: Solid medium amber, orange blossom honey.

Nose: It is a little pungent in the beginning. I'll put it aside to air for a while.... It is much better after a couple of minutes. Peach jam right after been cooked and left on the counter to cool down. Walking into a Chinese herbal medicine store, birch beer, ginseng roots and burnt soft wood. Roasted pine nuts and overripe Gala apples. Apple vinegar and chewable vitamin C tablets. A few tiny drops of water makes it more sour but also less woody... I like it better. Rice vinegar, actually more like vinegar based barbecue sauce and burnt chicken skin.

Palate: Barrel aged maple syrup, ground cloves and pine sap gum. Nice texture with sweet and tart notes at the same time: crystallized ginger and dried fruits: mango, plantains and apricots. Burnt soft wood, spruce logs and rosemary stalks. Again just a few drops of water help a lot to suppress the woody notes. Sweet and sour barbecue sauce and malt vinegar. 

Finish: Medium long with toasted wood, dry clay soil and almond skins. Sweet and sour barbecue sauce is still there and lingers longer than anything else.

Overall: Pretty fascinating to see how beechwood smoke works different than peat smoke on the grain. It adds that very distinctive sweet and sour barbecued meat character rather than the earthy campfire smoke. It might be the power of suggestion or maybe that's how our brain is wired but all I could think of throughout the whole tasting was a smoking barbecue pit. It definitely adds the American touch to the idea of smoking the grain. I only had a little trouble with the aggressive oak influence but like I mentioned above adding a little water helps with that. At the end it is not a whisky to replace your everyday bottle but I cannot wait to pour myself a hefty pour when I spend time in front of the barbecue next time. Nighthawk and California Wheat will be the next ones from Do Good Distillery on my desk very soon.

Price: $53