By Elizabeth Emmons
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery is fairly new to the spirits industry, part of the burgeoning Colorado whiskey gang, and the hard work in spirits production it takes to build a successful business is a true passion for the brothers who founded it. This makes the whiskey all the more likeable, as it displays true American sensibility and spirit (pun intended).
The brothers, P.T. and Lee Wood, were first attracted to spirit-making in 1999, but only until recently, in 2012, acted upon their idea. Prior to opening Wood’s distillery, P.T. was a river guide and homebuilder, while Lee was and still organizes tech events. The brothers financed the distillery with savings and home loans, and opened up shop in an old auto repair garage in Salida, Colorado. The distillery currently hosts tastings and tours, and these are all very well received according to the stellar Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews. Clearly, the brothers want to share their passion and personally connect with their community.
The brothers first started with distilling gin, and then moved on to whiskey liqueur. Tenderfoot is their single malt offering. It is distilled twice in their antique German pot still, named “Ashley”. It is aged in new oak, and bottled, unfiltered, in batches of 350 bottles. What is notable about this whiskey is that it is made from a blend of five malted grains, including 2-row barley malt, smoked barley malt, chocolate barley malt, malted rye and malted wheat (so in this case, single “malt” does not mean 100% malted barley). This blend makes this whiskey unique and memorable. It is unbelievably oaky, yet its oakiness does not destroy subtly lingering flavors.
Tenderfoot is burnt orange in the glass. The bottle labeling and finishing is thoughtful and adorable. The label includes a small depiction of Ashley at the top and manages to squeeze in a moustache under the word “Wood’s,” presumably a nod to one of the brothers’ moustaches that looks almost identical to this one. A paper square of literature about the whiskey is hung from a string that includes a mini-carabiner. Mountain climbing, anyone?
The name “Wood’s” is fitting for this whiskey, as wood is a reference point for Tenderfoot. The immediate nose is oak, oak, oak. Images that come to mind when smelling it are a woodworking shop (think freshly felled trees with wood polish, wood oils, and light chemicals), a wood house being built atop a breezy mountain, and watching the sun rise on the Rockies as you lie in your cabin. Surprisingly, with the heavy charred oak scent, there is no nasal burn. The goal of this whiskey is meant to evoke the essence of Colorado (specifically, a “passion for the outdoor adventures…with the essence of the mountains of Colorado”), and it certainly does.
The mouthfeel is initially slightly creamy with an insistent spiciness that lingers on the top of the tongue for quite a while. It tastes just as one would expect from the nose: oak. The taste thins out as the finish endures and heavy salivation helps it on its way. The tail end of the finish is very dry. It is clear that this is a young whiskey but this does not do it a disservice. In order to keep that bright oakiness and bold spiciness, it’s youth is necessary. There is also a subtle smokiness which comes from the charring, and the taste of a citrusy dark chocolate.
Specs for the bottle I sampled:
Age: 1 year
Batch number: 16
Approximately $60 pr 750 ml bottle.