By Debbie Shocair
Once again, my foray into America’s small distillers was rewarded with a delightful expression of amber gold that proved easy to write about. Dangling participle and all.
2bar Spirits is a Pacific Northwest distiller, but the story begins with a family whose 2bar Ranch in South Texas. Nathan Kaiser drew on that background for inspiration, founding the namesake distillery in Seattle, WA.
A true grain-to-glass whiskey, 2bar uses locally sourced grain (all from either Washington or Oregon) and mills, ferments, mashes, distills, ages and bottles entirely on-site. They welcome visitors to their distillery in the SoDo neighborhood in Seattle.
Says Kaiser, “We’re just doing our best. We are listed under ‘manufacturing’, but it’s really an art. We 100% respect the craft and the trade. It has to be a labor of love – we won’t have a master distiller until I’m gone. I love whiskey, and I know that the effect – that one component can make the difference – it can result in unique and awesome flavors you never experienced in whiskey before!”
2bar, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in October 2017, is making a straight bourbon whiskey from approximately 60% corn, a touch of wheat, and four varieties of malted barley. The various barley selections each have a different level of roasting and give the finished bourbon something that Kaiser calls “an unpeated-style malt” character. An unusually long, 2-week fermentation process adds to their whiskey-making signature.
Note the “straight bourbon” designation, making this product quite different from the younger 2bar Bourbon that was written up a few years ago. It’s also aged in 30-gallon barrels, not the 15s that were used before. They are experimenting with different barrel volumes for upcoming vintages. Nathan Kaiser is keen to point out that “we make smaller amounts, and barrel size is key to our production quality and tempo. We are a small distillery, but I’m proud to say that now we are producing in a year what the big distillers make in an hour.”
But, as you know, I am more interested in what ends up inside the bottle… so on to the whiskey.
On the nose, this 100-proof bourbon was rife with high floral and grassy notes, rounded out by lower cinnamon, leather and oak-driven, vanilla aromas.
Breaking the bourbon with a ½ teaspoon of water made quite a difference. The creamy vanilla leapt forward and the gassiness took a back seat. Heretofore hidden notes of ripe pear played peek-a-boo.
The mouthfeel was at the roof the the mouth, the tip of the tongue and at the back of the palate.
The finish was very spicy at first, surprisingly like a high-rye whiskey. Cinnamon was then prominent, followed by a pleasant honey-smoky wood which lingered. And. Lingered….
Do you have a friend who likes cigars? This one would be oh-so-perfect for pairing.
This craft bourbon from 2bar has a truly lovely finish. Interesting how the final, smoky notes cling without ever becoming ashy. This would be a wonderful addition to any whiskey lover’s collection.
2bar Straight Bourbon is available in 8 states and online for around $50.