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Single-Malt Whiskey & Rye from Tatoosh

T. Edward Wines, Craft Spirits Distributor, Tatoosh DistilleryMark Simon and Troy Turner of Tatoosh Distillery

“We’re in bourbon and rye country with all the big players,” said Mark Simon of Tatoosh. “They did an attendee vote at the end {of the Whiskies of the World Expo in Atlanta], and we were voted best bourbon and rye. For us, the little guys from out west, to walk away with that kind of recognition…”

When Troy Turner first decided to produce craft-spirits that were based on the bootlegging recipes of his great-grandfather, he found a business partner in Mark. Initially, they intended to build a distillery, but then, as Mark said, they “decided not to. It became apparent to us that building a distillery was not the best use of capital. 1183 had just been passed, the privatization of the [spirits’ sales] market in Washington. There was a six-month period where most distilleries were idle. Until we got volume to a certain level,” he added, “we couldn’t use a distillery as it should be used, so we put our money into the market.”

Following the in steps of Samuel Adams, who began producing beer in 1984 but not from its own brewery until the mid-nineties, Tatoosh Bourbon, Rye and Single Malt are produced and bottled by Tatoosh, but the spirits are distilled elsewhere. “We are fully transparent,” said Mark. “We have nothing to hide. We don’t own a distillery [yet], so we don’t say we distill. We say produced and bottled by Tatoosh.”

T. Edward Wines, Tatoosh Distillery, Craft Spirits distributor

Crafting recipes from his great grandfather’s notes that are hand written and according to Troy, are rife with statements like: “cook for some time, stir the fire, wait for it to steam and boil, add a handful of corn and a pinch of this and that”, Troy and Mark have sought specific flavor profiles that are based on the family recipes.

For Tatoosh Rye, released just one month ago, said Mark, “We played around with it and settled on 86 proof, American oak and 70% rye, with the rest corn. The corn smooths it out, adds a bit of sweetness. It’s smooth and clean.” The Single Malt, Tatoosh’s second whiskey which was released in February, is an American ‘scotch’, made with 100% malted barley that’s aged in French oak that was charred but not with peat. “It’s robust and sophisticated,” said Mark, with aromas of “apricot and raisin with a fruity finish. If you drink Scotch, you’ll love this. It’s so unique.” And while there are a number of U.S. single-malt barley whiskies, which are just starting to come to the market, “I don’t think we’ll see a lot of people doing it with French oak,” he added, “but more American oak because it’s cheaper.”

With the northwest as a great source for barley, Tatoosh sources two-row Vancouver barley for its Single Malt from three local farms. “Sometimes called ‘sprouting’,” said Troy, “the process consists of ‘steeping’ the dry barley in water over a period of 2-3 days to absorb the moisture and have the barley seeds start to sprout.” In simulating the natural growth process that happens in the field so that the seeds might grow, Troy continued, “the naturally occurring enzyme in the seeds converts starch to sugar, after which the barley is dried, using warm ambient air.” It is through this malting stage, where the sugar levels are created, that the potential alcohol that can be extracted. Once either the malt whiskey or rye is distilled, it’s returned to Tatoosh for aging and bottling.

T. Edward Wines, New York craft spirits distributor, Tatoosh Distillery

Or, just for aging.

“We have some 4 ½ to 5 year old bourbon,” said Mark. “We have 17 barrels of rye aging. And Private Reserve, [which is] Tatoosh Whiskey made from 100% Malt Barley that we put into 59 gallon French Bordeaux [used] barrels at 116 proof. We’ve been sampling that in Vegas and Seattle. The feedback tells us to just bottle it as is and get it into the market, but we’re not sure what we’ll do with it just yet.”

With a Private Barrel Program on the horizon, Tatoosh will next year release a Single Malt Whiskey aged in American Oak with it’s flavor components of vanilla and caramel. “We’re very hands on,” said Mark. “We have a number of different [family] recipes. The benefit of being a small company is if there’s a new idea, you can jump on it. But we do one thing at a time.” And, just like a sip of Tatoosh Single Malt Whiskey, the journey is worth savoring.

For more on Tatoosh, read here.

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