Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels
Yesterday Dad & I headed southwest to visit the Yahara Bay distillery, one of two craft micro-distilleries in town. It is truly and mom & pop operation, with maybe half a dozen people working there at a time. We were the first to stop by for the day (yes, I sampled some booze at 10 am), and we were led on an impromptu tour.
The whole operation fits inside a space that’s about 100′ square, tucked away in an industrial strip on the south side of town. The German-made copper pot still greets you as you walk in; aging barrels are stacked to the left, grain and mash mixes hide in the back, and the bottling and packing station, not to mention cases of Death’s Door gin, take up most of the space. Yes, all the bottles are capped by hand. With their product range, I had expected a larger, semi-automated operation, but nope! At the time, they were cleaning out the still and getting ready to make their gin (the distillation passes right through a container of botanicals connected to the still, taking advantage of the heat to aid maceration). Very cool.
I tasted a couple of their spirits: the apple brandy and their aged whiskey. The apple brandy has a bit of edge to it, with a fair amount of oak, being aged in relatively new barrels, not unlike 13th Colony’s Corn Whiskey from Georgia. It’s made from 100% Honey Crisp apples, which are pressed to yield juice, then cider, then distilled to get an eau-de-vie, then aged for 18 months, similar to a Calvados but without a blend of apples. Good, but I enjoy Laird’s Bonded or Old for their smoothness and depth; this one was a bit too light and woody for me.
Their aged whiskey, on the other hand, is extremely smooth, and tastes of sweet corn, though it’s made from four local grains and aged for, I believe, two years. They also claim it’s the first whiskey (officially) produced in Madison since prohibition, so hooray! Very nice, so this was my purchase at the distillery. However, I’m tempted to get some of their Mad Bird Rum, Holz Apple Crisp Liqueur, and Cocoa Liqueur. We’ll see!
Photos by IJL