By Richard Thomas
Stolen Spirits first gained attention with the introduction of its smoked rum and a marketing shtick that borrows a page from Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and modernizes it. Now they have followed up on that with Stolen Whiskey.
Stolen Whiskey began as an MGP product with which very few drinkers will be directly familiar, their stock corn whiskey. This is an oddball even to me, and I know corn whiskeys better than most whiskey writers (since so many of my colleagues eschew the stuff), because it is made with an 81% corn, 15% rye, 4% malted barley mash bill. The whiskey was then aged in used Bourbon barrels. The result is a base product more like what would happen if Jack Daniel’s or George Dickel made their own version of an Early Times, because of the high corn, but otherwise Bourbonesque mash bill and use of spent barrels.
To this, Stolen Spirits added flame-roasted and smoked barrel staves, which were then inserted for a finish. The resulting 11 year old whiskey was bottled at 92 proof (46% ABV). My expectation is that this should come across as either a smoky, much improved version of Early Times or as a smoky grain Scotch whisky. Which will it be?
In the glass, the experience starts out leaning more towards the grain whisky side, with an appearance that is very much in the dull, darkened gold, as if the smoking process got on the gold and smudged it up. The coat streams with legs.
The nose is kind of like smores done over a hardwood, car-camping style campfire. It’s very thick, creamy, marshmallow sweet, with vanilla graham crackers and the kind of clean smokiness that comes from burning very dry oak. The flavor is a honey and green apple sweet, seasoned with eucalyptus and mint, and just a tinge of smoke. It’s very rich and puts a thick coat on the mouth, and rather surprising in that it’s more herbal and minty than smoky. This is, after all, billed as a smoked whiskey.
The finish is where the smoke comes on. As the herbal spiciness fades, one is left with a thick, creamy coat on the tongue and a light, but decidedly ashy note that just sits there as the warmth winds down.
In answer to the question of which mode Stolen 11 Year Old Whiskey follows, I would say it’s more like smoky grain whisky than a smoky, aged Early Times. And that is actually a very good thing.
Stolen 11 Year Old Whiskey is listed at $35, but some retailers have it marked up to $40. At either price point, it’s a good buy if you have a wide and varied whiskey palate.