Browsing the Federal Code I came across a myriad of whisky styles I’d never seen in real life. From “whisky distilled from Bourbon mash” (not to be confused with just “Bourbon”) to “Light Whisky”, there are a few styles that are either rare by historical lack of necessity or used up in blends so you never get to see them by themselves in the market. Recently, a few distillers have been trying to resurrect the “Spirit Whisky” style.
A spirit whisky is a blend of neutral grain spirit and at least 5 percent whisky (assuming the whisky portion is either wholly whisky or straight whisky, or a blend of the two if the whisky part is made up of no more than 20% straight whisky). There are no restrictions on whether you can age this high proof neutral spirit portion or not. Some do, some don’t. Classically it is supposed to be unaged, though. This example happens to be 7% whisky mixed with clear as daylight unaged stuff. The purpose of this senselessly complicated style is hard to understand without a little historical context. Jokes on you; I have none of that for you, today. Today we talk about rich marketing assholes.
The first thing I noticed about Kansas’ (other than the extremely light, barely golden color) is that the wide, flat bottle makes it tricky to pour. They fuss a lot on their website about how a perfume bottle maker helps craft the fancy, flask-type containers. They drag on about their font and how special it is. They make comments about real whisky distillers being rednecks and are hard at work marketing to perpetuate the myth that all current whisky drinkers are stodgy old men. If I were a younger man I would get busy spreading the idea that spirit-whisky drinkers are all pre-pubescent little girls who should stick to Boone’s Farm and leave the good stuff to their fathers, but man, I’m too tired for that noise and I know too many lovely ladies who respect the real drink to say that, even jokingly, about the fairer sex.
Nose: Floral and fresh with a very light and sweet whisky profile. It’s so light that I got a little light headed from hyper ventilating while trying to get a good smell on it. Citrus first. Pizza crust, brown sugar and maple notes wander in while a few farmy, malty aromas shout from a distance. There’s a faint chemically, Kodak film type smell but it’s not bad. Then again, it’s not a whole lot of anything. Even the woody notes are diluted considerably.
Palate: Marshmallows and syrup. Demerera and lemons. A little ethanol, sweetly in the finish. Taking a sip makes the bourbon notes in the nose a little more obvious. Very mellow. Column stills and a mash bill that features winter wheat make for a very smooth and mild profile. Is it good? Sure… but not whisky good. Not whisky as most folks know it, anyways. Vodka good. Yes. Weird new spirit good. Yes. Bar mixer good. Yes.
Carry on my wayward soooooOoOoOon… Somewhere out there a guitarist with an eye patch is playing one of the most memorable classic-rock guitar riffs ever written while some other guys in his eponymous state are ruining the scene by letting a bunch of vodka drinking pussies think that they’re part of the whisky culture, now. The distillery claims aging whisky is a problem… I’m not sure what to say to that. To each their own, but whisky is famous because of they way it’s been made up until now. Spirit whisky didn’t make whisky famous. Scotch, Bourbon and Rye did. I hate to break it to you Kansas, you’re riding on the coat tails of the good stuff and if it weren’t for a technicality leftover from prohibition era shortcuts, your product wouldn’t even be here for us to make fun of.
I will say this: This one would make a nice transitional drink for those who drink nice vodka but want to expand their horizons into whisky territory without jumping right into the heady stuff. I still feel like calling it whisky is a bit misleading, though, even if the TTB is on their side. This would certainly be an interesting mixer for bartenders to play around with and if only for that use alone I would say to try it!