When a 10-year-old distillery that's never played by the rules decides to finally make an aged whiskey, you'd better be damn sure the result won't be anything that resembles traditionally made brown spirits like bourbon or Scotch.
Obsessed with flavor and how to get the most of it into its booze, Greenbar Collective — Los Angeles' first distillery to open since Prohibition — created its Slow Hand Six Woods Malt Organic Whiskey to be a smokey, woody dream, with intense flavors in stark opposition to any other one-off, small-batch whiskey on the market.
After brewing a single-malt, Scotch-style wash and running it through the still, the liquid was put in a massive charred oak barrel — the standard wood for whiskey aging. But since the company has built its reputation on infusing spirits with unconventional ingredients as if they were tea, the collective quickly started doing research on other woods that might complement the oak.
“Ninety percent of whiskey's flavor comes from the wood,” Greenbar co-owner Litty Mathew said during a recent tour of her company's sleek downtown L.A. facility. “So we started thinking about what other woods we could use to make our whiskey.”
Tests with everything from cherry to balsa wood netted five eventual winners, all determined to work well with the distillery's latest endeavor: hickory, grape, mulberry, red oak and hard maple. Blocks of each wood were thrown right into the barrel, forcing the whiskey to absorb all kinds of flavors from these nontraditional materials.
The resulting Six Woods Malt Whiskey is not only Los Angeles' first aged whiskey but it's also one of the country's most unusual interpretations of the classic spirit. Notes of unfinished wood, cotton candy, spice and dirt are all present in this complex drink. When you pour it over a big ice cube, it opens up even more.
“We know it's not traditional, but we don't follow any tradition anyway,” Mathew said of the Six Woods, which left the warehouse in bottles two weeks ago.
Available in both a 42 percent ABV and more rare 57.5 percent ABV cask-strength version, Greenbar's Six Woods whiskey is currently making its way onto shelves across the country (Mohawk Bend in Echo Park is using it as its well, Mathew notes). But because of the aging time and the fact that Greenbar has only one big oak barrel, don't expect to see another shipment for a while.
The distillery also consistently makes a mean white whiskey under its Slow Hand series, and the sweet and peppery liquid is just as good as its recently released cousin.
To learn more about Greenbar Distillery and to search for the nearest retailer that stocks its products, visit greenbar.biz