Introducing Tatoosh Bourbon
Troy Turner’s great grandfather (third from the left) raising a glass of moonshine (photo courtesy of Troy Turner)
“I grew up with moonshine like an Italian family would have wine on the table,” said Troy Turner of Tatoosh Distillery, “we always had some homemade spirit.” From a mother whose family made whiskey to a father’s family who moved and sold it, Troy, who resides in Seattle, was perfectly positioned to craft Tatoosh Bourbon from family lore. “With the family history and books of [100+-year-old] recipes,” he adds, “we had to translate the recipe from ‘a dash of this, a handful of that’. Now with modern still technology, we took those recipes and transformed them to a large modern copper-pot and column still methodology.”
Together with Joe Eliasen, Troy forms the mash with locally grown barley and rye, the former of which grows near the distillery and provides the bourbon’s flavor. With access to water from the Cascade Mountains that is naturally filtered through the area’s volcanic rock, Tatoosh favors the classic sour mash method, which calls for adding backset to the batch from a previous distillation, helping ensure a consistent pH from batch to batch. Once the fermentation is complete, the 8% abv mash is distilled in a 500-gallon hybrid still to 65% abv, before it’s aged in Char #3, 47-gallon American oak casks for three years. In addition to this, Tatoosh rotates their barrels every three to four weeks to maximize oxidation while smoothing the spirit and adding complexity.
Transporting moonshine “undercover” (photo courtesy of Troy Turner)
In addition to clean air and mountain waters, the Pacific Northwest offers extreme temperature variations, which enables the barrels’ expansion and contraction during aging. “The barrel expansion/contraction is extremely important in how the liquid interacts with the wood of the barrel” said Troy. “The expansion and contraction of the sealed Bourbon will have the liquid seep into the walls of the barrel and back out again. This will draw flavor into the Bourbon that previously wasn’t there to give it a unique flavor full of vanilla, caramel and hints of cinnamon. That rich brown color is due to this American oak barrel aging process.”
“Tatoosh harkens back to an old school-style of Bourbon,” says Scott Rosenbaum, our Spirits Strategist. It is not charcoal filtered and is without artificial coloring or flavoring agents. “The current trend in whiskey focuses on high-octane spirits that sometimes sacrifice quality for a greater level of alcohol. Tatoosh’s value resides in its balance and complexity and at an even-keeled 40% it’s the same proof that your grandfather would’ve enjoyed his Bourbon at.”