We’re back in Texas for another new distillery in our ongoing exploration of all things whiskey related. Regardless of the location, outturn or reputation, we want to bring you as much variety daily as possible. So, today we have a release from Ironroot Republic distillery in Denison, Texas.
Our last foray to this distinctive state was for the Crowded Barrel Eleanor release, which frankly was more style than actual substance. Whereas that was sourced whiskey and openly stated as such, this Ironroot is their own distillate aged in the ferocious Texas climate and bottled as nature intended. On paper then, this is a promising start and for this Icarus in particular, it starts out life as another Ironroot release called Hubris.
This is a straight corn whiskey, aged in European oak bourbon barrels. The Icarus variant comes with an additional step in the maturation process. Namely, finishing it for an additional year in barrels that previously held port and a peated whisky. The corns utilised for those that are interested in these sorts of things are red flint, heirloom purple and non-GMO yellow dent corn.
Ironroot was established in 2014 and takes its name from local resident Thomas Volney Munson, who as a horticulturist, saved the European wine industry. His work with vines and the technique of grafting helped overcome the widespread blight of Phylloxera. The French government granted him the Chevalier du Mertie Agricole of the French Legion of Honor. In addition, Munson’s city of Denison was granted sister status with that of Cognac in France.
Hence the focus on root and the need for a more iron clad approach. The dream for the Likarish brothers began more recently in 2011 and with a joint love of distilling. After much research and the hardships of starting any distillery, Ironroot was born. The French linkage isn’t merely a historical nod to the past, as the long-established French approach to distilling was also adopted. This influence is seen on the shape of their stills, which have a more European outline and blend into the overall emphasis seen in the regional French producers.
At the heart of this approach is the practice of élevage which ultimately means taking a more proactive and hands on approach to maturation. In essence in Scotch, things are generally left to their own devices and the importance of patience and mother nature. In cognac, a cellarmaster will oversee the maturing spirit and often will shape it to their own vision by utilising casks of different types and ages.
In Texas, where the climate will act as a natural accelerator, a more hands on approach is recommended. Waiting your typical minimum of 3 years in Scotland possibly might be too late if the cask has taken a more active role than predicted. Through monitoring, planning and using different cask types like we have here in the Icarus release, it is possible to almost choke that acceleration, or at least use it to your advantage.
Whiskies from Ironroot aren’t widely distributed as of yet, however, the distillery is behind the Texas Legation release for Berry Bros., which is closer to home and I’m feeling is another future review option. We managed to obtain a sample of the Icarus thanks to Aqvavitae and a recent bring your own event in Glasgow. Roy, having recently returned from a trip to Austin and a YouTube gathering, had the opportunity to try many whiskies and brought some contraband back to Scotland. This is the 2019 release, bottled at 39 months of age, 105 proof (52.5%) and is non-chill filtered.
Ironroot Icarus 2019 Straight Corn Whiskey – review
Colour A rich honeycomb.
On the nose: Caramel, raspberry jelly, ginger, cardamon and strawberries. Some black pepper, raddish, varnish and a good balance of wood versus spice. Brown sugar, honey and more wood sweetness. Water brings out the honeycomb and an earthy ginger root.
In the mouth: A gentle earthiness is now present with a nice mouthfeel. A rusty dynamic, which I enjoy alongside cranberries and a drying finish. Red grapes, musty, woody and a cherry note on the finish. Water unlocks a clammy characteristic alongside little else arguably underlining the youthful nature.
39 months isn’t long in Scotch terms, but in the Texas climate this translates into a well-established maturation. In some ways the Icarus feels constrained by the casks deployed. There is a balance present yet ultimately the experience does swing towards the port side of things. That’s not a bad thing if you have a semi-sweet tooth when it comes to your whiskey.
The corn gives a more rugged and wholesome mouthfeel and overall this is a solid expression and shows some promise. As always, we’d recommend referring to our scoring guide if you’re new to an open and transparent scoring system.
Certainly, a distillery to watch out for going forward and hopefully we’ll see more of their whiskies in 2020.
Photograph provided by Ironroot.