We hear the term craft more often than not when it comes to American whiskey. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. We even see some legacy distillers try to eek out that their whiskey is somehow craft whiskey. But, what, exactly, is craft whiskey?
Like various words in the wonderful world of whiskey, such as small-batch, extra-aged, and others, craft is one of those marketing terms that has no legal definition. It is understood to mean it is produced on a small-scale operation and usually connotes some form of hand-made, better quality than one that was mass-produced. If we stick to that assumed definition, this is an opportunity for things to become interesting.
Today I'm reviewing The Dark Door, which is a Washington Straight Bourbon that is distilled, aged, and bottled by Wildwood Spirits Co. out of Bothell. Owner, Master Distiller, and sommelier Erik Liedholm teamed up with renowned Chef John Howie to create a craft Bourbon meant to stand apart from others on the shelf. But, why call it Dark Door?
“Since bourbon names are expected to be somewhat evil, magical, maniacal, catchy, I thought why not `Dark Door’? My parent’s house is already the Wildwood emblem on the back label of all our products. Why not keep to the theme – and keep people wondering?” - Erik Liedholm
This whiskey begins with a mash of 80% corn and 20% white wheat. All the grain comes from local farms and is non-GMO, making it a true grain-to-glass Bourbon. It is then distilled and then put into highly-charred barrels from an undisclosed Missouri cooperage known for constructing superior wine barrels. These are smaller barrels, which means that in theory, it matures faster than if placed in standard 53-gallon ones.
Resting a few months beyond two years, the Bourbon is dumped and then diluted to 90° before being bottled. You can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml package. It is sold in Washington but is available for purchase online.
I'd like to thank Wildwood Spirits Co. for providing me a sample of The Dark Door in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. For the record, this is from Barrel #17. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious to taste what this Bourbon is all about.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Dark Door presented as the color of chestnut. It formed a thin but sticky rim on the wall that produced thick, wavy legs that crawled back to the pool of whiskey.
Nose: An obvious punch of raw honey hit my olfactory senses. That was joined by freshly-sawn wood, apple, and raisin. I could have easily mistaken this for a sherry-finished whiskey simply based upon what I smelled. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, it was like I had a mouthful of golden raisins.
Palate: The mouthfeel was slightly oily and spicy. The front started with barrel char, then became sweet with corn and vanilla. At mid-palate, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine biting into a Bit O' Honey candy. The back consisted of orange blossom, milk chocolate, and bone-dry oak.
Finish: That oak tannin continued well into the long, mostly spicy finish. It was joined by the barrel char from the front, big black pepper, which was strangely offset by caramel and milk chocolate. Just as I thought everything was over, a dollop of honey slid down my throat making everything just nice.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Getting back to craft whiskey, $50.00 seems to be the sweet spot no matter how old or young it is. With the use of smaller cooperage, The Dark Door drinks older than two years. I will say that the use of those barrels, special or not, was easily identifiable with the dominant wood notes. The more I sipped, the more enjoyable this Bourbon became as my palate accepted the woodiness and allowed me to concentrate on other notes. I believe 90° is correct for The Dark Door. It is an interesting pour that is perfect for someone who wants to drink something off the beaten path, and that's me. As such, I'm handing The Dark Door my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It