Who in their right mind was distilling small batch American single malt whiskey in 2015? Until recently, you probably wouldn’t have guessed, “a small California distillery using a brandy still.” Back then, a few of the “big” players in the emerging ASM space were getting their operations underway but for the most part, it was a largely untapped category. Less than a decade later, we sit at the precipice of American Single Malt becoming a mainstream category of whiskey, both domestically and in many international markets. Thanks to increased attention to the category, many American single malt projects we may not have otherwise heard about are finally coming to light.
The Wolves Whiskey brand is a relatively new one but they quickly put their name on the map thanks in part to a few rye whiskies made in collaboration with Willett distillery in 2021. Wolves often takes an unusual approach to their product line by using hop-flavored whiskey in many of their releases. Master Distiller Marko Karakasevic is a 13th generation distiller and has never been shy about distilling beer at Charbay Distillery.
Wolves’ first foray into American single malt, however, takes a more traditional approach. In typical Wolves fashion, they still employ some unusual production methods in terms of still type, yeast strain, and oak.
As described by Wolves Whiskey:
Lot One of the Malted Barley Series is Wolves’ first Single Malt expression. These 12 barrels were distilled in 2015 in an antique alambic brandy still, from two-row pale malted barley, and fermented with California Ale yeast. A range of oak treatments from light toast to Char 3, along with alternating Hungarian and American heads, were applied across the 12 barrels. 11 of the 12 barrels were blended together and bottled at 110 proof for this expression.
If you’re wondering what happened to that 12th barrel, it’s slated to be released as a single barrel expression later this year.
Wolves Single Malt Lot One was distilled in 2015 and bottled 7 years later in August 2022. This whiskey is bottled at 55% ABV.
|Nose||Eau de vie, extremely malty, hefeweizen, fresh-baked sourdough loaf, grapefruit, blackcurrant, spent espresso grounds, light honey, red grapeskins, banana. Some tart fruits comes forward with water.|
|Taste||Rich fruits first (banana and poached pear), more malt, tart apple, some lemon, grape Laffy Taffy, wine sweetness, clove, light oak, whipped cream. The richness settles down with water and allows some of the candy sweetness and creamier notes to shine.|
|Finish||Candied orange peel, chocolate malt, more banana, caramel, yeast, toasted oak, more sourdough, slightly bitter coffee, bubblegum. With water, less bready and more coffee and some chocolate notes.|
|Overall Thoughts||This is very much a "beer drinker’s whiskey." It’s extremely heavy on the malt influence, yeasty, and has banana notes that remind me of unfiltered wheat beer. Under this overarching profile lies some nice subtlety including candied sweetness, some tart fruit, and just a hint of spice. I'm pretty picky when it comes to beer so the overt "beerness" of this whiskey doesn't fully jive with me but I can see how this would be a smash hit for those that love beer and whiskey equally. Hats off to Wolves for making a unique single malt with a flavor profile I've never encountered before. We need more variety out there!|