By Jake Emen
Good ol’ fashioned American whiskey produced in the rolling Kentucky hills isn’t typically associated with the intense, peaty smokiness and maltiness of scotch, but many trends have sprung up in the whiskey craze of modern times, and one of them is the American malt whiskey. Imagine the malt whiskey base of the Scottish style, but liberated from Scottish traditions, leaving the distillery free to do whatever it damn well pleases with their whiskey, and you have an American malt.
So, when you make an American malt whiskey and call it “Triple Smoke,” you’re hinting at that spirit of American experimentation. Kentucky-made whiskey as this may be, it draws its character from American charred new oak aging and three different sources of fire-malted barley, making a unique cross for your palette, as well as an intriguing experiment that any whiskey lover should be eager to approach.
Corsair Triple Smoke is an American single malt whiskey, distilled by Corsair Artisan. The malted barley is divvied up and smoked via three different methods – cherry wood, beechwood and the traditional Scottish peat. The label on my bottle says “small batch,” although there is also a single barrel expression of this whiskey as well.
The whiskey falls back into the American pattern with its new charred oak barrel aging, and is produced and hand-bottled at the Bowling Green, Kentucky distillery (the company also has a Tennessee distillery, but all the whiskey for this product comes from the Bowling Green facility, making it a single malt instead of a vatted malt). From batch to batch you may, of course, notice subtle differences in both taste and aroma. The bottle I happened upon was labeled as Batch 57, bottle 11/296, with a standard 40% alcohol content by volume (80 proof).
The reason I initially tried Corsair Triple Smoke is that I wanted to see how these two divergent halves of one product would mesh. Which would win out: the Kentucky or the Scottish side?
Take a sip either neat or on the rocks, and either way it’s the smoke that dominates. Is that a bottle of Islay single malt scotch you’re sampling? No, but a double take is certainly warranted. Corsair Triple Smoke has exceedingly deep and complex flavors. While the peat sticks out the most, you’ll notice the caramel undertones of new oak, highlighted by the cherry wood, and overall a thick, rich quality.
However, if you’re one for mixing your whiskey, then prepare yourself for the best “scotch” and soda you’ve ever had. Corsair Triple Smoke mixes wonderfully with a tonic or soda water, and suddenly the sweetness comes parading out at the forefront of each taste. The smokiness is left as a faint afterthought, keeping the beverage from straying too far into the land of honey and caramel. I’d imagine it would work quite well in a variety of modern, smoky cocktails, and the distillery recommends it for Manhattans.
Corsair Triple Smoke enjoys a fairly wide distribution across the United States, generally available up and down both coasts, and the majority of the southeastern states. A 750 ml bottle costs roughly $50.
Corsair Triple Smoke has picked up several awards in the past few years, including golds at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2010 International Review of Spirits Awards, BTI, and 2011 MicroLiquor Spirits Awards.