By Kenrick Thurston-Wilcox
Based in Buena Vista, Colorado, Deerhammer Distillery was founded in 2010 by the couple of Lenny and Amy Eckstein. Lenny had been working at Colorado craft whiskey trailblazer Stranhan’s, and decided to try his hand at making his own whiskey. Inspired by the bootstrap ambition of the early Western settlers (Lenny’s first still was a handmade 150-gallon job only able to make 1 barrel of whiskey per month), Lenny and his wife packed up and headed into the mountains to realize their dream.
Surrounded by many of the states famous 14er’s, there is something special about Buena Vista (pronounced be-you-na). A small mountain town, it embodies much of what many people love about Colorado. Year-round outdoor activities; colorful views; a small artistic community; local craft breweries, distilleries and wineries; multiple hot springs around the area; and great people with time to talk to anyone. Divorced from the busy city life that many who travel through Colorado know, Buena Vista invites one to slow down and appreciate all that Colorado has to offer.
Taking a look around at the growing craft whiskey scene (that was predominantly bourbon) and wanting to instill the uniqueness that is Buena Vista, Lenny decided on putting his stamp on American Single Malt. They have since grown from doing single malt, distilling a number of different whiskies, including bourbon, rye and corn whiskey; although American Single Malt remains at the core of their lineup. Buena Vista’s history can be found in the name of the distillery as well, being named after one of the first residents of the town, Irina Deerhammer.
Their Single Malts start off as a porter-style mash before being distilled in direct-fired copper pot stills and aged a minimum of 2 years in virgin white oak at 8000’ above sea level. The temperatures can range anywhere from 40-80 degrees in a single day, resulting in a characteristic, Rocky Mountain maturation. After it’s initial time in Virgin Oak, the Single Malt is transferred into ex-port casks which include ruby, tawny and Colorado-style port, for an additional 1 to 2 years. The resulting liquid is an enticing looking dark and brooding, yet welcoming color in the bottle. It is then bottled at 100 proof.
Once poured the whiskey is a deep amber and brown. The nose is warm and inviting with a nice rounded woody scent, earthy, leather, some chocolate, and some interesting notes of lemon, pine and cedar.
The taste is just as inviting, with chocolate coming out first along with some toast, cigar and leather. Plum, dark fruits and lemon come in after the initial sip. The liquid is a little thin for my liking but is not at all displeasing. The finish holds up the promise of the nose and mouth, with the flavors becoming really smoky and being infused with cacao. It last a good long time and the oil clings to the inside of the mouth, prolonging the enjoyment.
A couple drops of water changes the nose to predominantly chocolate notes, yet is still pleasant. The palate is more or less the same, just tasting slightly watered down from before. It still finishes great, but is more balanced this around between the cacao and smoky flavors, lasting a good long while.
Overall the whiskey invites you in with it’s dense and interesting nose. The palate keeps the promise set forth by the nose and finishes great. Water changes the experience just slightly, making this whiskey good either neat or on the rocks.
Deerhammer Port Cask Finished American Single Malt can be found for around $60.