Wednesday, October 15, 2014
LA's Only Whiskey: Slow Hand Whiskey from Greenbar Distillery
The growth craft distilleries over the last five years has been nothing short of phenomenal. My list of whiskey distilleries includes over 300 across the country, including distilleries in every state except Hawaii. Metro areas like Portland, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area have scads of distilleries making whiskey. Los Angeles has one.
The Greenbar Distillery has existed as a company making infusions since 2004, but in 2012, they opened a distillery in a warehouse space on the east side of downtown LA. They make a wide variety of spirits, from rum to liqueurs. Everything they make is organic and everything is made in-house except for their tequila, which is made in Mexico. This month, they are coming out with their first aged whiskeys and opening a new tasting room that will offer tours and samples. Melkon Khosrovian, who runs the distillery with his wife Litty Mathew, invited me to see the tour and taste some samples.
Last year, Greenbar released Slow Hand White Whiskey, a whiskey made from an oat, barley and spelt mash. For their aged whiskey, they wanted something a bit different, so they went for a single malt distilled in a column still to a lower proof than their white whiskey. Khosrovian isn't a fan of small barrels so he went in the other direction entirely, aging the whiskey in a massive, medium toasted 1,000 gallon French oak tank. To spice things up a bit, he added wood cubes made from hickory, mulberry, hard maple, red oak and grapewood. He wouldn't tell me how long new whiskey is aged, but it's obviously young since they've only been distilling for two years.
The aged whiskey is slated for release later this month in regular and cask strength expressions. I tried those along with the white whiskey that is already on the market.
Slow Hand White Whiskey, 40% abv. ($35)
The nose has soft new make notes with some vanilla and peppercorns. On the palate, it's surprisingly delicate and less new makey than the nose. It's very light and sweet but it lacks much in the way of character. There's a slight acidity at the end of the palate that trails into the finish where it's joined by some of the peppery notes from the nose. As far as white whiskey goes, this isn't bad; there's just not much to it flavor-wise. Of course, I don't typically drink white whiskey, so keep that in mind (though I have to say, I'm not sure who does).
Slow Hand Six Woods Malt Organic Whiskey, 42% abv
This is not on the market yet, but I was told it would likely retail for under $50.
The nose has really nice wood grain notes, like an unfinished bookshelf; once it sits a bit, it develops some pine. The palate is very light with wood notes. It's less new makey than I would expect for something that is quite young, but it isn't big on flavor. There's a hint of spice and a hint of citrus, but they are very subtle. The finish leaves a nice wood note on the nose but only an alcoholic tinge on the palate. Letting it sit out for a while, it develops a bit more with some mint on the palate and less alcohol on the finish.
Slow Hand Six Woods Malt Organic Whiskey Cask Strength, 57.5% abv
This is not on the market yet, but I was told it would retail for around $60.
The nose on this one has wood and spice and then, after some time in the glass, sweet candy notes with some fruit. The palate is sweet with vanilla, fruit and wood, then spice; with some air, it develops a distinctive sweet milk chocolate note. The finish is short but has a nice balance of sweet and spicy. This is quite drinkable, and air really opens it up, so give it a decent amount of time in the glass.
The cask strength malt is definitely the best of the bunch here. It's an interesting craft whiskey and one that shows promise, but as with so much craft whiskey, it has the taste of an experiment that's not quite complete.
LA folks interested in these whiskeys can sample them by taking a distillery tour, which is also a great way to see a working distillery without leaving town. The $12 fee includes up to six sample pours, and their new tasting room is a really nice, open space. Tours are by reservation only at 5, 6 and 7:00, Tuesdays through Saturdays. You can sign up for tours on their website, but don't bring llamas; they seem to have a problem with llamas.