By Jake Emen
All variations of whiskey seem to be thriving these days. Think about the proliferation of single malts across the globe, the revival of rye whiskey, especially as a go-to spirit at craft cocktail bars, and the growth of American micro-distillers.
Spokane, Washington’s Dry Fly Distilling – the first legal distillery in Washington since Prohibition, a phrase I’m familiar with as I seem to be doing a state-to-state journey of such distilleries – is itself a craft operation, but they’re not riding the rye wave, they’re working with wheat. Wheat whiskey has a long tradition in America, with none other than George Washington running a wheat whiskey business, but in modern times only Bernheim Original has managed a big splash in this department. That is, Bernheim and now Dry Fly. While Dry Fly has expanded into bourbon and a variety of specialty 375-ml offerings, including vodka and gin, Washington Wheat Whiskey is at the forefront of their lineup.
Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey is, well, a 100% wheat whiskey from Washington, bottled at 40% abv. In the glass, it displays a bright copper color. On the nose, I noticed orange peel, molasses, and a hot, robust kick which signaled the long finish which did indeed come.
When tasting Washington Wheat Whiskey, a restrained citrus comes back, along with a sharp, deep, grainy-wheat undertone. The finish is relatively long and dry, a bit hot, but pleasant. With water or ice, a caramel sweetness emerges and the finish mellows, offering a maple syrup and molasses combination made lighter by remaining orange-citrus hints.
The great thing about a bottle of Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey is that the bottle itself can entertain. Simply pour yourself a dram, take a seat and start enjoying the hilarious notes and references on the bottle.
There’s a meter called the “Gauge of Happiness” which starts with Bliss towards the top of the bottle, declining through Starting to Get Worried, Time to Get Your Stingy On, and various increasingly depressing thoughts until reaching Panic!!! Other quotables include many-a-reference to fishing- philosophy, “only dead fish swim with the stream”, odes to whiskey, “whiskey is man’s attempt at heaven”, and combinations of both, “catch & release; good for fish, not for whiskey.”
It’ll keep you busy as you enjoy sipping on some Washington Wheat… at least until it’s time to “Panic!!!”
The bottle would be a cruel ploy or simple marketing trick if a below-average whiskey was lurking within, but that’s certainly not the case here. Washington Wheat Whiskey is, ahem, a real catch.
Dry Fly’s spirits began very centralized to their roots in the Pacific Northwest, but now enjoy a growing distribution from coast to coast, and is available at assorted online retailers between about $43 and $50 for a 750 ml bottle.
Washington Wheat Whiskey has received a gold from the American Distilling Institute in 2010, a triple-gold at the 2011 Micro Liquor Spirit Awards, a silver at the 2011 New York World Wine & Spirit Awards and a 94 rating from Tasting Panel Magazine in 2011.