My grand plans to explore America’s whiskeys by starting from my home base of California and branching out from here has been temporary derailed, happily so, for a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee where the Corsair Artisan Distillery makes their Triple Smoke Single Malt.
As a rule, I avoid anything related to numbers, but this is math I can do. For their Triple Smoke, Corsair distillers split the malted barley into threes so they can smoke each fraction with a different wood (cherry, beech and peat). Distilled in a circa 1920 240-gallon still that survived Prohibition then barreled in new charred oak, the resulting whiskey offers the drinker the experience of wandering through the still smoldering remains of a burned-down house. The bottle itself is lovely, sporting more sharp edges than your average whiskey holder and a label image straight out of “Reservoir Dogs.”
Color: supermarket apple juice. Nose: nearly all smoke, the kind of smoke that clings to your clothes. A sniff of this whiskey envelops you like a backdraft. While I enjoy a good measure of smoke in the form of peat-heavy Scotch whiskies, I was a bit put off by this much in the glass. It’s nobody’s fault but my own, they warned me of the triple-whammy right there on the label. Considering that I went into The Daily Pint with a hanker for something boldly different, this 90-proof spirit delivered. Regardless of personal preference, I was delighted by the new experience.
In the mouth: A blast of smoke in the first sip, like standing by a fire when the wind suddenly shifts and points the billows of smoke right up your nose. It makes the eyes water, but it’s also sort of fun. Subsequent sips reveal two layers: behind the smoke lurks a cherry sweetness with other summer fruits humming low behind it. I would have preferred a sweetness to match the smoke because for me the punch is all up front, but I suppose a name like “Triple Smoke Triple Sweet” wouldn’t roll off the tongue as nicely. Still, I wanted something, if not sweet, then with enough complexity beyond the smoke to produce a far more lingering effect on the palate. It seems, however, that not everyone found it lacking. Corsair Triple Smoke won The Whiskey Advocate’s “Artisan Whiskey of the Year” for 2013.
If you’re game for an unusual drinking experience then pick up a bottle of this 80-proof little housefire-in-a-glass from The Whisky Exchange for £49.95 if you’re in the UK and, if you’re in the U.S., at proof66.com for $45.00.