By Richard Thomas
I used to refer to New York, Texas and Colorado as the three states contending to become “America’s Third Whiskey State.” I’m beginning to rethink if it’s still just those three, but a big part of why I originally put Colorado on the list was Stranahan’s, one of the early entrants in the micro-distillery movement. Founded in 2004 as the first legal distillery in The Centennial State, and released the first batch of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey in 2006. Proximo, owners of Kraken Spiced Rum among other brands, bought the distiller in 2010.
As an American single malt (100% malted barley, all from one distillery), Stranahan’s has come a long way. The original batch was a straight two year old whiskey. The current version is a blend of up to 20 barrels of stock ranging from two to five years in age, bottled at 94 proof (46% ABV). Therefore it’s fair to say modern batchings of Stranahan’s are notably different from those of several years ago, so I suggest ignoring reviews of this whiskey from before the last few years.
Stranahan’s shows both its relative youth and its new barrel aging in that it’s color is a light, dull coppery amber, and it streams hefty legs in the glass. The scent is very Scotch like in one respect, in that it’s packed with cereals and cut and dried grass. However, there is also a sweet side to it, a certain marshmallow quality that comes from the malt, but also a dollop of vanilla from the white oak.
The flavor delivers many of the staple elements I have come to expect from malt whisky: a malty, honeyed sweetness, seasoned with light touches of peppermint and anise, and a trickle of nuttiness. Yet there is also the overlay of vanilla coming from the barrel. The finish starts with a little pepper left on the tip of my tongue, but as that fades with the declining warmth I’m left with a certain earthiness in my mouth.
Stranahan’s is, in fact, the most uncomplicated presentation of the idea of an American single malt. It’s fitting that this was such an early entrant and a forerunner of the present boom in American malts. It’s not fancy or complicated, but it is nonetheless a tasty, easy drinking and sturdy example of what malt whiskey aged in virgin white oak is supposed to be.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey fetches between $55 and $60 for a 750 ml bottle.