Like a number of other foundational, regional American craft breweries, Dogfish Head has expanded its business into the spirits game over the years. Along the way, they’ve produced aged and non-aged expressions of rum, gin, vodka and far wilder liqueurs, but everyone who follows the distillery industry knows that in the end, there’s a certain segment of fans who are waiting for one thing, and one thing only: Aged whiskey.
Now, Dogfish Head can finally say that they’re in the whiskey game, with the release of their first in-house, distilled and aged malt spirit, Alternate Takes: Volume 1. Of course, this being Dogfish Head, they seemingly went out of their way to make this release as strange and unique as they possibly could. And if I’m calling a whiskey strange and unique, then you can bet there’s some odd stuff in its pedigree.
To begin with, Alternate Takes: Volume 1 is distilled from what is essentially a Dogfish Head beer, albeit one that has never been released commercially, nor was ever intended to be. Unlike breweries such as Deschutes, whose Black Butte Porter Whiskey I recently reviewed, Dogfish Head isn’t taking one of their commercial beers and then distilling it. Instead, they’re designing a fermented liquid to be distilled from the very beginning, using a rather crazy array of malts: Applewood smoked malt, coffee kiln malt and crystal malt, which are mashed and then fermented with the brewery’s house Doggie Ale yeast. The fermented product is then distilled, aged in newly charred American oak barrels, and is then finished in rum casks that previously held the distillery’s Barrel Honey Rum.
You got that? This is essentially a whiskey or “beer schnapps” made from a variety of specialty malts, then aged in freshly charred oak and finished in rum barrels. What does that taste like? I can say with no reservations that I have no idea, and it’s an intriguing thought. The brewery/distillery says the following of Alternate Takes: Volume 1, which is bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof): ”“candied nuts & peppery cinnamon finish with mild smoke & cocoa.” So there you go.
“We approach each creative moment at Dogfish with a thirst to push new and out-of-the-ordinary ideas to the furthest limit,” said the statement from Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione “as no liquid concoction is out of bounds, and each take on it is part of the artistic journey. Our Alternate Takes whiskey series is an ode of sorts to the mad chemistry of R&D distilling, and we’re super excited to share this creatively fresh take on Whiskey Finished in Rum Casks with our Delmarva friends.”
Alternate Takes: Volume 1 will be made available in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., with the “Alternate Takes” name suggesting that each release could be finished in a different type of barrel. MSRP doesn’t seem clear at the moment, but we wouldn’t expect something this unique to be very cheap.