There’s gold in ‘dem hills! Ugh. Sorry. As far as I’m concerned, craft distilling is the next “big thing”. Like craft beer is in the midst of a massive explosion of popularity and number of breweries, craft distilling of whiskey and other spirits is next. Now this is no major revelation that I’ll get any credit for, nor should I, as this has been known or speculated about for a while in the beer and whiskey industry and nerd.. I mean aficionado circles. However, I do doubt many mainstream drinkers know much about it. It makes sense as it goes along with a larger trend toward locally sourced artisan crafted foods and beverages. There are artisan distillers popping up all over the country (as this ADI map can attest) producing excellent products from standard straight bourbon to reviving Rye to wild experimental whiskey (oh, and other liquor too). Some craft distillers have operated in the US for decades but a large many of them are new to the scene. The relaxation of distillation laws, licensing and taxation has helped spur this trend and as far as I can tell will continue to do so.
Founded in 2010 by radiologist Bryan Nolt, Breckenridge Distillery lays claim to the title “The World’s Highest Distillery” as it sits at 9,600 feet above sea level in the historic western mountain mining and ski town of, you guessed it, Breckenridge, CO. Spawned by his love of whiskey, scotch and rye in particular, he started the distillery to create a malted barley whiskey. On suggestion from a his master distiller (Jordan Via from ADI) he created the rye heavy Breckenridge Bourbon with a mashbill of 38% rye, 56% corn and 6% malted barley. The distillery uses an open top Scottish style fermenter and a 700 gallon custom copper Vendome pot still. Distilled and proofed with water from the Blue River, it is aged in char #3 new white oak barrels sourced from Missouri and then bottled at 43% after 2-3 years. Breckenridge Bourbon has been garnering a lot of attention, and rightfully so. They won one of three Gold Medals in the 2011 International Wine and Spirits Competition, Double Gold Winner Denver International Spirits Competition 2012 and 96 points – Breckenridge Bourbon – Chairman’s Trophy Finalist Ultimate Spirits Challenge, NYC, 2012.
I went searching for a bottle a few weeks ago and unfortunately they don’t distribute in South Carolina. I’ve successfully ordered other whiskey online but the shipping costs are stout. Luckily Breckenridge Bourbon is distributed to Georgia so I grabbed one on my last visit. The very helpful Director of Operations at the distillery Jen sent over a list of retailers (and endured bunch of questions from me) which made tracking a bottle down in the sea of liquors stores that is Atlanta much easier. One thing that new distilleries making bourbon or any other aged whiskey have to contend with is having a product available to sell while the whiskey they distilled is aging. Breckenridge is no exception. The currently available bourbon (or at least the bottle I got my hands on) is distilled by “a group in KY who prefer to remain nameless” but using Breckenridge’s mash bill. It’s an understandable fix to the issue but I’m looking forward to trying the whiskey distilled on site.
Nose: floral, honey, starts a little restricted with time some opening with more traditional bourbon oak and vanilla and slight sour, citrus note and pepper from the rye.
Taste: honey but not too sweet, oak, big hit of rye spice, typical bourbon caramel, vanilla, with dark cherry and a very slight acetone note similar to Elijah Craig 18, some malt creaminess.
A medium finish with rye pepper and cinnamon over classic bourbon oak and vanilla.
Overall impression: I enjoyed the rye heavy character of this bourbon. While a really smooth and sweet wheated bourbon can be nice at times I prefer my whiskey to have some punch to them, be that alcohol or spice or hopefully both. I keep going back to comparisons of a younger Elijah Craig 18 though the Breck has much more rye in the mashbill and the EC18 is sweeter. I think it’s the acetone notes in the EC18 reminds me a lot of the way the rye is presented in this excellent bourbon. I never added water to it so I can’t comment on that. I just enjoyed it neat and went against my usual tasting of at least trying it with water. You can see by the photos I’m cruising through this bottle but I’ll try and get one dram in with a little water to see if it changes the character.
86 proof, recommended.