Wolves Whiskey Lot Two American Single Malt Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Wolves Whiskey Lot Two American Single Malt Whiskey Review

It was only a couple of months ago that I wrote about the way American single malt whiskey has essentially come of age in a more official sense, as an official definition from the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will more or less codify the practices that American distillers have pioneered with malt whiskey over the course of the last few decades. That’s all well and good, but the thing about malt whiskey in America is that it’s still such an enigma at the end of the day: Made in incredibly different ways by small distilleries all over the country, many of which have flown entirely under the radar. It feels strange, to look at the American single malt space and see just how much its maturity seems to have snuck up on you, even if you were trying to pay attention. How else can one react to a company like Wolves Whiskey, suddenly announcing an 11 year old California single malt expression, distilled at another company I’d never even heard of before this? When these kinds of bottles are starting to arrive on the market, you know that the category has been around (and growing) far longer than the average consumer realizes.

Wolves Whiskey describes itself as a luxury whiskey brand, founded by “culture mavericks” James Bond and Jon Buscemi. You would call them a non-distiller producer, though all of their product seems to come from a specific source, the Charbay Distillery of Ukiah, California, which has been in operation since 1983. There, master distiller (13th generation!?!) Marko Karakasevic has long been experimenting with various aspects of whiskey distillation, particularly when it comes to distilling finished commercial beers in several Charbay products. For his home distillery, he plays with various blends of malt and rye whiskey, while for Wolves Whiskey he creates similar bespoke blends for limited release, living a reportedly hermetic-like existence as he distills for days all on his own. The latest release is Lot Two, the second American single malt release under the brand’s Malted Barley Series banner, which was primarily sold through the brand’s website. Notably, even a $305 MSRP did little to top it from quickly selling out.

What we have in this bottle is more or less unlike anything I’ve sampled in the American single malt whiskey world before, because almost none of the craft distilleries producing malt whiskey have the kind of stock to put together something like an 11-year-old batch–that, or they don’t think they can sell that product at the kind of sky-high price tag its effort would demand. To consumers who are particularly passionate about American single malts, this makes Lot Two a truly unique and likely tantalizing concept.

According to the brand, this spirit was distilled and barreled in 2012 using imported Irish malts with a California ale yeast, distilled in a copper alembic pot still. It was aged in a variety of new American oak, including barrels with lighter toasts and more standard char profiles. The 9-barrel blend was then bottled at 55% ABV (110 proof). This makes the resulting spirit probably the oldest American single malt aged in new oak that I’ve come across–from a smaller craft distillery, at least. There are very few comparisons I can even make for Lot Two, as the use of toasted and charred American oak for the entire aging process in particular means this should have little if anything in common with comparable old Scottish malt whiskies.

So with that said, let’s get into tasting this particularly unique bottle from Wolves Whiskey.

On the nose, Lot Two features dense aromas of caramel candies, sweet oak and fudgy chocolate right off the bat. There’s also a sort of peppery fruitiness to it, and a toasted bread impression that actually puts me in mind of rye bread, though there’s obviously no rye grain involved here. Maybe that’s a certain caraway or anise-like spice, putting me in that state of mind, or maybe I’ve never smelled anything quite like this before in general. The sweet impressions are nice, though, with the maltiness and chocolate coming together to evoke malted milk balls.

On the palate, this whiskey immediately takes off in unexpected directions–words like “complex” and “challenging” are about to get bandied around. There’s a big, initial rush of caramelized sugars and honey, leading to an upfront impression that is very sweet, but that immediate sweetness is swept aside in a dramatic fashion by flavors that are much more savory and earthy–impressions of dried herbs, tobacco and roasted oak, along with more resinous pine and spice. I’m again getting that milk chocolate and malted milk, along with something I’m eventually tagging as maple. Texturally, it’s quite viscous and mouth-coating, which enhances the decadent impression. What really stands out, though, is the turn into dried fruit and herbal, more bitter tones, almost hop-like, and the charred woodiness of it. I haven’t often encountered this sort of palette of flavors all competing for space in a single bottle, which leaves my own palate swinging between confusion and delight from moment to moment.

Overall, the effect is utterly unique, and I find it growing on me–particularly individual notes, like the chocolate one–as I go back for repeat sips. This kind of uniqueness, the desire to operate outside of traditional classifications, appears to be part of the Wolves Whiskey modus operandi, so I think they deserve credit for following through on a whiskey release that lacks many direct comparisons with what we see on the market on a daily basis. This is its own beast, and if you’re a big devotee of American single malt whiskeys, it’s a fascinating dram to seek out.

Distillery: Wolves Whiskey
City: Ukiah, CA
Style: American single malt whiskey
ABV: 55% (110 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $305 MSRP

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

Share Tweet Submit Pin