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Review: Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey

Wheat whiskey is becoming quite the rage. Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling does an excellent job of fueling the fire with their newly-released, excellent and very-hard-to-find “Washington Wheat Whiskey.”

Going back a few years, in late 2005 big Kentucky distiller Heaven Hill released Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, which they (now incorrectly) call “The Only American Wheat Whiskey.” (I have a bottle somewhere back in the bunker, but couldn’t easily find it to compare to the Dry Fly.)

More recently Death’s Door Distillery in Madison, WI, has released another 100% wheat whiskey (actually an unaged moonshine-style) called “White Whiskey.” (My review of the Death’s Door is here.) Like Death Door’s, Dry Fly’s is a totally local product – it uses only winter wheat “sourced from within Washington State.”

As of this writing there have been only two releases of Dry Fly Whiskey, both quite sensationally oversubscribed. Retailers in the Spokane era saw lines around the block on the release days, and were forced to ration bottles to make sure as many people as possible could get them. I asked my Spokane friends to get me a bottle of Batch One, but they were either rationed from getting an extra for a friend, or showed up at the store at lunchtime when everything was already sold out.

Fortunately the intrepid David Driscoll of local Redwood City retailer K&L Wine Merchants sourced a few bottles of Batch Two last month, and I got one for $52.99.

Immaculate packaging – a squat, broad-shouldered transparent bottle with a foil cap and cork stopper. The Dry Fly logo is silk-screened, but the rest is an adhesive label (presumably this is the same bottle used for Dry Fly’s very popular gin and vodka).

I believe this whiskey is aged in fresh charred oak for two years, lending the liquid a color of clear light brown or even an attractively burnt orange. It smells sweet – that’s the wheat talking – with a tiny hint of barrel char.

The flavor is very nicely integrated – predominantly sweet vanilla, maybe some toffee and mellow mushy fruit. A very easy-drinking whiskey, though with just a touch of unexpected burn on the back of the throat (and it’s bottled only at 40% abv – helpful to squeeze more bottles out of limited production, but not to get the most flavor from this very gentle distillate). Without any other grains in the mash, you get none of the spice typical of bourbon or rye whiskey. A nicely lengthy finish, given the young age.

Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey has a very nice round flavor – it’s sweet and simple without any hidden complexity. Which is fine – this would be a good sipper on a warm afternoon or an excellent cocktail base.

I’m loath to make generalizations about 100% wheat whiskey having tried just three (Bernheim, Death’s Door, and Dry Fly), but I wonder if some corn, barley, or rye would add some needed complexity to the final spirit. The simplicity here feels a bit like tasting a component of something larger (to be fair, what I think of many single malt Scotches).

Anyway, if I gave scores, I would Dry Fly’s Whiskey (Batch Two) 84/100. Who knows what it might grow into with more time in the barrel?

(My blog includes ruminations on all sorts of unrelated topics. You can find just the whisky posts here.)

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  1. [...] called, simply enough, “Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey.” (My review of the Dry Fly is here.) Like Dry Fly’s, Death’s Door is a local product – it uses only winter wheat [...]

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