A Six Wood Whiskey from the City of Angels
When you think of American whiskey, it would be common for your thoughts to drift to Kentucky, or even Tennessee. One city that would probably be far down on your list might be Los Angeles. Until Cali had received this bottle as a birthday gift from a friend, we had not come across Greenbar Distillery, their Slow Hand Six Woods Whiskey, or any of their other spirits. Even though we weren’t familiar with this distillery here in the Midwest, they have a distinction as having “the world’s largest portfolio of organic spirits.” It is easy to see how Greenbar has achieved this accomplishment, with such a wide range, including gin, whiskey, tequila, vodka, rum, liqueur, amaro, and bitters. We did some digging to learn more about where this multi-wooded whiskey came from.
With the explosion of craft beer and spirits over the last decade or so, it is almost hard to remember a time before small batch specialties were so prevalent. Greenbar Distillery was founded 14 years ago and, surprisingly, with their opening, they became LA’s first distillery to open since the days of prohibition. The distillery’s founders & spirits makers, Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew, share the heartwarming love story on the company’s website and detail how that unfolded into founding one of the first craft distilleries in the US. While Greenbar wasn’t all-organic from the start, in 2008 the couple switched the distillery’s ingredients to all-organic options and swapped the packaging for more eco-friendly versions. Since then, in a true California fashion, the the couple has continually increased their commitment to sustainability. One of the more impressive manifestations of this effort is the commitment to plant one tree in Central America for every bottle sold. According to Greenbar’s website, they’ve planted over 700,000 trees in the last 10 years.
Slow Hand Six Wood Whiskey
Continuing on the subject of trees, Greenbar uses wood from 6 different types of trees to age its Slow Hand Whiskey. The whiskey is aged for under 3 years in white oak vats and uses house-toasted staves made up of the additional 5 woods (Hickory, Maple, Mulberry, Red Oak and Grape) into the mix. Using wood staves has become an interesting alternative to ageing whiskey as it gives distillers the chance to influence the flavor of the spirit simultaneously without having to transfer between casks. In addition, the staves give the liquid more chance to contact the wood and most likely age the whiskey quicker. Before sampling this whiskey, the most wooded whiskies we had tried were Auchentoshan Three Wood and Laphroaig Triple Wood single malts. Both of these whiskeys are extremely delicious and have deep, complex flavors derived from the three types of woods. With twice the number of wood types, we weren’t sure what to expect. Slow Hand is also made with malted barley, so we expected this whiskey to drink more like a single malt than a bourbon. Would Slow Hand be a complex, layered dram or a flavor overload?
On the Eyes: In the glass, Slow Hand is the color of butterscotch candy and caramel. The dram is rich but with lighter legs in the glass.
On the Nose: At first we picked up traditional bourbon aromas of vanilla and a bit of corn. But the dominant scent was of a bouquet of fruit including freshly poured glass of grape juice mixed with fresh cherries.
To the Taste: We were very surprised by the taste of this whiskey. The initial flavor resembled your favorite fruit punch drink—light, sweet, but very balanced. At the same time, Slow Hand is not a one-note whiskey. We also tasted notes of sandalwood, and bitter dark chocolate lurking just below the sweetness.
And the Finish: For the finish, the fruit explosion retreats with only light grape sweetness. The finish was not as sweet as we expected from the nose, but very pleasant nonetheless.
We were impressed with Slow Hand Six Woods Whiskey. The flavor is robust, and complex, with several layers perhaps corresponding to the different types of wood involved in ageing the spirit. The taste resembles a lowland, heavily sherried single malt in that it is very approachable and yet not overly sweet. One of the more refreshing drams we’ve had in a while, Slow Hand also has a great narrative with the commitment to sustainability and intriguing ageing process. We look forward to trying the cask strength variety in the future.