MIXED BLOOD BLENDED WHISKEY
MASH BILL – unstated blend of Du Nord’s own high-rye bourbon with sourced whiskeys
PROOF – 80
AGE – 2 years
DISTILLERY – Du Nord Craft Spirits
PRICE – $61 (includes tax and shipping)
BUY AGAIN? – When it’s available in California and I can purchase it off the shelf, yes.
I first heard about Du Nord Craft Spirits due to unfortunate circumstances—the protests that erupted in Minneapolis, MN, in response to the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd. The Du Nord facilities were damaged by fires set during the protests. Rather than responding bitterly, Chris and Shanelle Montana, the couple who founded and own Du Nord, put the safe and functioning areas of their facility to use as a food bank to support their devastated neighborhood. Soon after, they also created the Du Nord Foundation to help raise money for other neighboring minority-owned businesses in need. Their story was eventually reported in the New York Times, giving national exposure to their distillery and the ethics that drive it.
These decisions, to immediately help others when they themselves also needed help, speak to the Montanas’ commitment to promoting change in the world through the craft spirits community, creating products that honor their local community and actively recruiting under-represented people to join their team. Chris Montana puts it plainly on the Du Nord website:
“Du Nord is a place for people to be safe, be welcome and feel wanted. If you’re a Black woman, Latino, gay, straight—whatever—this is a place you should feel welcome, across the board. That is what’s missing [in the world]. I’m not always as welcome in places as I’d like to be, which informs how we do things at Du Nord.”
One can understand the name given to their primary whiskey offering, Mixed Blood. It works on multiple levels. Again, the Du Nord website:
“True to it’s name, Mixed Blood is a whiskey with mixed origins. High-Rye Bourbon, laid down early in our story, is blended with sweeter whiskies that balance and compliment rye’s fiery nature. Oak barrels mellow and round the character of the spirit within. The resulting whiskey is a reflection of Du Nord, its staff, and its community. It is a blend of distinct spirits, that when brought together create something worth savoring.“
Du Nord openly belies the notion that whiskey is not political. Where a distillery buys its grains, who it hires, how it names and packages its products, all these choices and more connect to sociopolitical matters relating people, capitalism, history, and the imagined future.
That Summer of 2020, Mixed Blood was only available outside of Minnesota via the online retailer Ace Spirits, to which the staff at Du Nord referred me at the time. But Ace was perpetually sold out. Eventually the brand was also made available online through Reserve Bar, and in early December 2020 I placed an order. It took six weeks for the bottle to wend its way through the combination pandemic-era and holiday season shipping traffic. When it finally arrived I uncorked it right away.
Out of the gate, after resting in a traditional Glencairn for five minutes or so, on the nose I picked up notes like sweet fresh bread, milled grains, honey, dry brown sugar, bright baking spices, and maple syrup. The taste had a surprisingly creamy texture for such a low-proof whiskey, with more fresh bread and grain notes, milder baking spices, slightly sharp sugars, all of it less complex compared to the nose. The finish was medium-short, with some cream notes, the bread, and an edge from those sharp sugar notes.
A couple days later, seated outside on a foggy but oddly warm night, I tried it in the Norlan Rauk tumbler with a fresh lemon slice tossed in. The lemon’s zing seemed to cover the sharp sugar notes. And now, whether due to the lemon or the bottle being open a few days, the taste was closer in complexity to the nose. Just that one added element, a lemon slice, already made the whiskey into a nice refreshing cocktail—cool enough for a warm night, but warm enough to cut through the chilly fog.
Now it’s five days after uncorking and I’m a handful of pours into the bottle. It’s a sunny, unseasonably warm Sunday late-afternoon. Tasted again, neat in a traditional Glencairn, here are some notes in brief.
COLOR – a pale sienna-amber with layers of yellow, gold and orange
NOSE – fresh baked bread, fresh and dried apricots, fresh milled corn grains, brown sugar, a medley of dried herbs, salt, and a dusting of cracked black pepper corns, very Summery
TASTE – a light, creamy taste and texture, the bread and fruit notes up front carried on a gentle wave of caramel corn, then a wave of the herbs and spices before another light caramel undercurrent floods in, ending with a dash of the salt, pepper and herbs
FINISH – the herb and spice notes lingering in a subtle layer of cream
OVERALL – warm like Spring, soft like Autumn, relaxed like late Summer, and surprisingly flavorful for its low proof and gentle nature
Being a big fan of high-proof whiskeys and the oaky impact that aging in the barrel can have, I wondered how I’d take to this 80-proof, two-year blend. I’m very struck by the amount and range of flavor here. It’s all very gentle and relaxed, but satisfying, and gently relaxes me as I sip it.
Visually, it takes light so well. The colors that emerge and refract really do capture the tasting sensation, conjuring Spring, Summer and Autumn all at once. That only leaves Winter—not that a whiskey is obligated to cover the whole year. And, as I said, I’m drinking it on an oddly warm Winter day, so, Mixed Blood makes a nice compliment to the weather’s mixed elements.
I’m most struck by the subtle but very notable blend of pepper, salt and dried herbs. It strikes me right away on the nose. Then on the taste, after the waves of caramel and cream pass, the spice/herb blend comes wafting back. And in the finish this blend lingers lightly but nicely. This might be an odd reference for a whiskey, but it makes me want to eat a crisp, fresh salad made with organic leafs and a creative array of herbs and spices. I would serve this whiskey with any light fresh food dish. And as my lemon slice experiment suggested, I can also see it figuring into a variety of Spring and Summer cocktails.
When I want a whiskey that’s going to relax me in the way sunlight does, I’ll be reaching for Mixed Blood. I would love to taste a higher-proof release, just to see what all those flavors do with more oomph behind them. That’s my curiosity, and not at all a criticism of the whiskey. It’s doing exactly what it intends.
Mixed Blood accomplishes a lot with a light touch. It’s not the event itself. It’s the welcome to the event. It’s the spirit of a handshake or reassuring hand on the shoulder. It’s the host of the party whom you don’t realize is so generously, quietly, and deftly organizing things such that you’re able to fully relax and feel free to be yourself.
I very much look forward to following what Du Nord Craft Spirits continues to come up with.