Chemist Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Chemist Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey Review

There was a lot of chatter throughout 2023 that the year of American single malt whiskey had finally arrived. On some level, the enthusiasm for the moment was helped along by reports that the TTB was about to issue an official stylistic definition for “American single malt whiskey,” a style that had effectively already existed in many forms in the U.S. for decades. Fans waited, and that announcement never came–it is reportedly still wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape to this day. But regardless, a flood of new single malt whiskeys produced in the U.S. did indeed enter the market last year, and we tasted and reviewed a good number of them. Over time, the market is adjusting to the perception of what American malt whiskey really is, and even distilleries not known for whiskey are starting to get on board. The latest? That would be Asheville, North Carolina’s Chemist Spirits.

As a lover of Asheville’s beer scene, spirits scene and cocktail scene, Chemist Spirits is a brand I know pretty well, along with their fantastic cocktail parlor Antidote. The most visible, primary focus of Chemist has always been gin brands, however–despite the occasional experiment with distilling local beer, gin is what they’ve been known for. The newly arrived Chemist Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey is their first wide-release version of what will be the brand’s flagship whiskey, eschewing the likes of bourbon to instead embrace U.S. malt whiskey.

Fittingly, its construction pretty much fits to a tee what I would consider to be the archetypal mode for making an American single malt. The company employs a blend of three brewer’s malts–dark Munich, Southern Select and crystal–from Riverbend Malt House in Asheville. The spirit is distilled for three years and aged in newly charred American oak with a level three char. Reused oak would have course been an option as well, but increasingly I feel like the American consumer associates the “standard” version of this style as the one aged in first-use barrels. The product is then cut to a manageable 45% ABV (90 proof), with an MSRP of $60. And yeah, that’s pretty much a classic representation of the classic American single malt whiskey on the market today.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting this expression from Chemist Spirits.

On the nose, I’m getting sweet malt and cereal tones, light caramel and a pretty notable level of floral character–there’s a wildflower freshness that then gets caught up in berry notes suggesting strawberry or raspberry. The barrel comes in next, providing a kiss of hazelnut chocolate spread.

On the palate, the floral and grassy character is preserved up front, and I find myself wondering if this is sort of the natural backbone of the spirit itself, before it enters the barrels. It makes for a somewhat dramatic departure into the more clearly wood-derived tones, with charred oak and milk chocolate, and malted milk balls. I’m getting flashes of the prior strawberry, with some earthiness, and a pleasantly sweet char. That impression then finishes a tad on the dry side, thanks to some heavily roasted, coffee-like astringency.

All in all, this feels like a perfectly nice take on American single malt to me, albeit one similar to a number of others I’ve encountered in the past. If you tend to enjoy the interplay between those malty-sweet flavors and the assertive character of freshly charred barrels, check it out.

Distillery: Chemist Spirits
City: Asheville, NC
Style: American single malt whiskey
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $60 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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