The Light Whiskey Experiment
Sep 16, 2022
We visited a prominent craft distillery in March 2022 to select and purchase our first official Two Souls barrel – a light whiskey. We knew it was a relatively young whiskey going in (1-2yrs), but we also knew that it was unique, exceptionally well-made, and entirely unconventional. Those are traits we can get behind.
When we arrived, we were told that they had 17 barrels of the light whiskey currently resting. This may sound like a lot, but compared to the 100’s of barrels of bourbon and rye that many distilleries have aging at any given time, it was a comparatively small number. So, we did the only responsible thing we could do - we tried them all.
Right from the start, the unconventional nature of the whiskey was apparent. Nearly all light whiskeys are made from a corn-heavy mash bill (often 99 or 100%), that when combined with the high distillation proof (160-190) and aging in a used bourbon cask, yields a very sweet, almost “soft” spirit that lacks distinctive grain notes. These barrels, however, were spicy and packed with layers of sweet cinnamon and mint. In other words, they tasted decidedly rye-forward.
The origin of this unique flavor profile lies in both the whiskey’s mash bill and aging. Instead of corn, the distiller uses a 100% malted rye mash bill to impart a fuller, spicier flavor to the whiskey. They then double-down on rye spice by aging the spirit in a used rye whiskey barrel. The result is a whiskey that has the sweeter, more approachable nature of a light whiskey, but the deep flavorful punch of a rye.
While the barrel we selected was truly exceptional (it stood out in all rounds of tasting), I wanted to give it a bit more barrel time to enhance some of the sweeter aspects of the spirit. However, I was worried that additional aging in the used rye barrel would continue to push the spirit toward a rye-centric flavor profile. The solution? A used bourbon barrel, of course.
As luck would have it, less than a month after selecting the light whiskey, we found ourselves selecting multiple bourbons from Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio. I knew the minute I tried one of the bourbons that I wanted to use that barrel to finish the light whiskey. The bourbon was sweet, rich, and packed with caramel-y fruit notes that perfectly complemented the spicy nature of our light whiskey. So, on August 12, 2022, the day of our first bottling run, we transferred the light whiskey to this bourbon barrel and set it aside to do its magic. And so the experiment begins…
We will update you on the progress of this light whiskey, including new tasting notes, every few months. Stay tuned!
Original tasting notes at barrel selection
TASTING NOTES: “Toasty mint, some maple and vanilla. Nose is somewhat muted but very well balanced with less booze than others. The best so far - palate progresses nicely from sweet, to dry, to minty”
Tasting notes prior to transfer to bourbon barrel (8/12/2022)
TASTING NOTES: “Spicy up front with notes of cinnamon, sweet mint, and oak chips. Extra time in the glass brings out a bit of raw honey and maple syrup. A great foundation of rye spice to build on.”