Wyoming Whiskey announces native bourbon will debut in December 2012Written by Saige Albert
Wyoming Whiskey will be released at a marketed as an 88 proof bourbon whiskey, and DeFazio says, “It will be nothing like any bourbon drinker has tasted before.”
The flavor in the whiskey
“It has a lot of vanilla and caramel flavor. It has a sweet fruity bit, and sometimes I get a bit of a nutty taste in it, also,” says Wyoming Whiskey Master Distiller Steve Nally.
“It was amazing, the maturity of the product this year over the two-year-old,” commented DeFazio. “When you see our product released this December, it will be incredible.”
“We’re looking for something that has a pleasant, smooth taste to it,” Nally adds. “The longer it stays in, it starts to pick up a wood flavor that mellows the alcohol.”
“Steve Nally gives our product instant credibility,” says DeFazio of the company’s master distiller.
Nally retired in 2003 from Maker’s Mark in Kentucky after 15 years as master distiller at the company. He was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame and decided to move to Wyoming for the opportunity to distill his own product.
“It was the chance of a lifetime to start a product from the ground up – developing the recipe, securing all the grains and seeing the building going up,” says Nally. “I just couldn’t pass it up.”
Aging bourbon whiskey
“Steve likens the aging process to chili making,” explains DeFazio. “When you make chili, you want to get it as hot as you can. Then you turn it down to a simmer, and it turns out great.”
He continues that whiskey barrels start at the top of the warehouse, and by the third summer, the barrels are moved to the bottom ricks of the warehouse, where they mellow and refine.
Nally adds, “We put the product in the new barrels. As it heats in the summer, it expands into the wood. When it contracts in colder weather, it pulls back out, and that’s how it gets all of its color and flavor.”
Because each season contributes one cycle, the whiskey takes many years to age properly.
“The first year, you get very little improvement. The product is pretty rough and pretty harsh,” explains Nally. “The second year we saw it start to round out and start to mellow a bit.”
“Really, I’ve seen more improvement in the third year than any,” he continues. “It’s starting to pick up a lot of the wood taste, and the caramels and vanilla start to be more predominant.”
Nally also adds that the alcohol after-taste and burn start to disappear, but that takes time.
After three years, Nally has decided the whiskey will be ready by next December.
“By the time we release this fall, there will be another full season, and the way it has progressed so far, one more year will take that after burn away,” says Nally. “It will leave you with a nice taste.”
DeFazio says that now, they are purchasing bottling equipment and preparing to bottle the product for December.
“We will release the image of the bottle and label once it is finalized,” says DeFazio. “It will be a round bottle – no fancy shape or design – but it will reflect the core quality.”
“We will have a solid bottle that, if you slide it down the bar and it happens to fall, it might not break,” he elaborates. “Something that feels good in hand and is straightforward with no frills or bells and whistles. We believe the bottle to be tough.”
Since the conception of Wyoming Whiskey, the distillery has filled over 3,000 barrels, with that number increasing by 30 barrels a week.
Currently, the operation has three warehouses. Warehouses A and B, with 1,750-barrel capacity and 2,250-barrel capacity, respectively, are filled, and Warehouse C began to fill at the beginning of February.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hope the consumer thinks it’s good, also,” says Nally. “The enthusiasm has been so overwhelming. Everyone in the state has been behind us.”
Wyoming Whiskey will only be sold in-state for the first year or two, because of limited product availability, but then will distribute to other areas.
Whiskey the Wyoming way
“We’re trying to do basic premium quality product, and we started out with the guideline that this will be a Wyoming product,” says Wyoming Whiskey Master Distiller Steve Nally. “Everything we use in the product we get from Wyoming.”
All grains are raised in Wyoming and are secured through contracts with area growers, and even the water is hauled from an aquifer near Hyattville.
“We are hauling water 40 miles one way,” adds Nally. “They are in the process of hooking up a line to delivery that limestone-filtered water to us.”
Because the limestone filtration system near the surface purifies ground water, Nally says it is important for good whiskey.
“Most limestone deposits in the area are about 10,000 feet below ground,” explains Nally. “As water comes up past the limestone, it picks up minerals, sulfurs and irons. By the time we can get to it, we can’t use it.”
The limestone deposit near Manderson is much closer to the surface, which provides very pure water that is free of iron.
“Iron is detrimental because it turn the product black,” comments Nally. “As far as most of the industry in Kentucky is concerned, we are using one of the purest forms of water we can use.”