McCardell's Reserve American Single Malt Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


What goes around comes around. Sometimes, that’s exciting… other times, not so much. I was introduced to Durango Craft Spirits back in 2020 when I reviewed Cinder Dick Colorado Straight Bourbon. That was a whiskey with a funny name and a taste that seriously impressed me. Then, in 2022, it was Tinhorn Colorado Straight Blue Corn Bourbon. It, too was delicious.


I was intrigued when the distillery’s co-owner, Mike McCardell, asked if I’d review his new American Single Malt called McCardell’s Reserve. In a way, distilling is distilling. Yet, there’s a difference between making Bourbon, which is corn-based, and single malt whiskey, which is 100% malted barley. They age differently; Bourbon is usually a slower process. In other words, just because you can make one quality whiskey type doesn’t necessarily translate to being skilled in another.


Mike is transparent about his operation. He sourced the barley from Colorado Malting Co. in Alamosa, Colorado. He selected Lambic malt, a barley used to make Belgian beers (gueuze, kriek lambic, and framboise). It has been in use since the 13th century, and what makes it atypical from most others is fermentation takes place using wild yeasts native to the Zenne Valley. Mike indicated he had no idea if another distillery has used it for whiskey.


“When I made this, distilling it, it was the most incredible smell in the distillery I’ve ever had.” - Mike McCardell, co-owner of Durango Craft Spirits


Let’s swing back to just because you can make good Bourbon doesn’t necessarily mean you can create good American Single Malts. Mike is building on his past success: McCardell’s Reserve slept for four years in former Cinder Dick barrels. He packaged it at 50% ABV (100°), and with only two barrels involved, the yield was about 500 - 750ml bottles. Each costs $100.00.


Has Mike brought his magic to the American Single Malt universe? We can #DrinkCurious and come up with our own opinion. Before I get there, I must thank Mike for sending me this sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached review. Let’s get to that now.


Appearance: I sipped this whiskey neat from my Glencairn glass. The yellow-gold liquid formed a husky rim and produced unhurried tears.


Nose: As soon as I cracked open the bottle, its aroma filled my whiskey library with smells of cinnamon sticks, apples, jasmine, sweet pea, and a hint of oak. Drawing the air through my lips allowed the maltiness to shine.  


Palate: McCardell’s Reserve possessed a smooth, buttery texture. The front tasted of apples, pears, and lemon curd. The vanilla, nutmeg, and orange peel were at my palate’s mid-point, while black pepper, bold clove, and smoked oak rounded the back.


Finish: This is where the Cinder Dick influence becomes apparent. One of the things I loved about that Bourbon was how the charred oak seemed unimpeded. There was enough left in the vintage barrel to carry through. It was slightly smoky without dominating; it seemed natural. The finish lasted several minutes, with lemon curd, nutmeg, clove, and black pepper. Once you thought it was about to fade, dark chocolate made an introduction to extend the duration.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: What goes around comes around. I applaud risk-taking, whether the end result is good or bad. Mike took one by using the Lambic malt. He took a second one by allowing to age the distillate longer than average for many Colorado distilleries. The transition from Cinder Dick to McCardell’s Reserve seems, well, seamless. It is appropriately proofed, which is proven by the taste and mouthfeel. If you’re a fan of the growing American Single Malt Whiskey category, you’ll want to grab a Bottle if you can find one. I’m happy to have it in my whiskey library. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.