77 WHISKEY AMERICAN SINGLE MALT
Single barrel #20190003 selected by Seelbach’s (2021)
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 130
AGE – 7 years 8 months
DISTILLERY – Breuckelen Distilling
PRICE – $99
WORTH BUYING? – Definitely
My introduction to Breuckelen Distilling was a 2021 single barrel release of their 8-year Wheated Bourbon. Bottled at a mighty 136 proof, and with an unusual mash bill of 60% corn / 20% wheat / 20% rye, it wowed me right out of the gate with its dense, bready dessert flavors, like a Christmas bread pudding drenched in dark maple and stuffed with chunks of baked apple. Given the near-hazmat proof, I’ve been enjoying this whiskey in small doses since uncorking it back in November 2021.
So when Seelbach’s, the online retailer specializing in American craft whiskeys, put this American Single Malt up I couldn’t resist. The account of its route to bottling was intriguing. Here’s how the Seelbach’s website describes that unusual journey:
- Mashed from 2 row barley grown during 2013 by Thor Oechsner in Newfield, NY. This is the same farm Breuckelen sources all of their grain from.
- Malted by Valley Malt in Hadley, MA., the first malt house to supply brewers and distillers in the northeast, post prohibition.
- Breuckelen Distilling did double pot distillation, sour mash, using their smaller 100 gallon pot with the column wide open (open meaning the plates were bypassed, so like a traditional pot still).
- They filled once used 25-gallon barrels with the new make. These barrels were initially used to age their The Local and The New York whiskeys.
- On January 16th, 2019, after aging for 1,757 days (4.8 years), they emptied 7 barrels into one tank (vatted). After the angel share they had enough to fill two 53 gallon barrels. They had just emptied six 53 gallon barrels of their own bourbon, which was bottled and sold as Project No. 1. That whiskey brand was retired. But it was the same batch of whiskey which we sold earlier this year, as the 77 Whiskey 8 year old Wheated.
- The whiskey aged in the ex bourbon barrel until they dumped it on December 1st. That’s 1,050 days, 2 years and 10+ months.
- The total time in oak was at least 7 years 8 months.
At uncorking, the nose was very reserved, to the point I could barely pick up anything… just the faintest subtle maltiness or bread doughiness… Then on the taste, there it was. Flavor. A creamy texture. All of it subtle, though not absent like the nose. There was grain, malt, fresh bread, a subtle nutty/fruitiness, apricot, a heat that soaked in without biting. The finish had malt, bread, apricot, and that deep warmth. Very unusual. The absent nose was unfortunate, like a play missing its first act. Restraint was the through-line of this whiskey. What was there was deep and rich, but withheld. A very interesting experience and also a frustrating one. The whiskey seemed tight and I just wanted it to loosen up a bit and share what it seemed to have to offer. So I let it sit…
…And now here we are, just over a week after uncorking and two pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – beautiful medium toasted oranges that love the light
NOSE – Now there’s a nose! Fragrant dried long grasses, old fashioned cinnamon hard-candy bubblegum, bright baking spices of a kind I can’t quite place, dried moss and twigs, fresh lemon zest and dried citrus peels, a mysterious caramel note way in the background…
TASTE – the medley of dried grass and herbal notes, a wonderful syrupy baked apricot like in a fruit crumble, a bit of baked bing cherry, something like persimmon, also dried papaya, and those baking spices returning at the end
FINISH – the baked syrupy apricot, dried papaya, the dried wood twig notes, a cooling heat from the proof
OVERALL – both dry and syrupy, like a late Summer baked dessert, and surprisingly easy to sip given the proof
Another whiskey that comes immediately to mind as I sip this is the Home Base Single Malt, also very herbal with a lot of hay and whickery wood notes, and apricot as its primary fruit note adding sweetness. The Home Base was younger, lower in proof, and conjured an arid Northern California Spring afternoon. This 77 Whiskey is older, higher proof, and takes me more toward late Summer when things are a bit more toasted, tired in an easygoing way, the busier Fall starting to come to mind as the baked Summer begins to tint toward burnt sienna in the late setting sun.
This complicates the concept of terroir. Home Base Spirits is distinctly Northern Californian, drawing on west coast small farms and the Bay Area climate, whereas Breuckelen Distilling makes use of its own NY state local farms and the seasonally alternating swelter and chill of Brooklyn. And yet both operations produce single malts that echo one another.
I’ve had a number of dry whiskey experiences lately—Capital Rye, a well-aged Buffalo Trace store pick, this Breuckelen Distilling release. “Dry” is a pejorative for some drinkers, and I myself do prefer some sweetness to balance the drier aspects of a whiskey. But perhaps because I grew up in such an arid climate, I do find these drier whiskeys appealing. Their fragrances and flavors conjure many fond memories of my life lived largely in California’s varied dry landscapes. Hiking in the Sierra Nevadas. The expansive sand of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. The El Dorado County Fair with its pie baking contests and pre-fab carnival rides. Listening to A.M. radio while driving on seemingly endless highways surrounded by desert en route to Los Angeles, Death Valley, San Diego…
I’m writing these notes on a sunny Sunday in May, after a slow afternoon spent raking and weeding a sandy-soiled backyard that my apartment neighbors and I hope to turn into an oasis of local wildflowers and fruit trees. This 77 Whiskey American Single Malt could not have been more perfectly timed. It matches the hot, dry, clear blue sky, and the prospect of native fruit trees that will be harvested, their fruit put into pies and cocktails.
Whiskey doing what whiskey does best—helping us to remember the past, and to appreciate what’s around us in the here and now.