Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Whiskey

Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Whiskey is an 86 proof, corn based (65% corn, 15% rye, 20% malted barley) whiskey aged for approximately 6 months.  It is a "pre-Prohibition style" whiskey, as I'll describe below, and is intended to showcase high-quality grains and the effects of the copper pot still as opposed to the effects of oak (i.e. tannins and caramelization).

Todd and Scott Leopold moved their distillery "home" to Denver, CO in 2008 from Ann Arbor, Michigan where they had been brewing, distilling spirits, and managing a bar since 2001. Along with just a few other employees, they now produce 20+ different spirits and utilize some extremely complicated and time-consuming methods.  For example, their whiskey mash is cooked very slowly and at much lower-than-standard temperatures in order to produce a softer, more subtle white dog.  For an interesting look at some of their other methods, you can read drinkspirits.com's story here and drinkinsider.com's story here.

Unlike most craft distillers, the Leopold Bros. don't make a bourbon.  The American Small Batch Whiskey would be a bourbon as defined by Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations if it were barreled at 125 proof or higher.  However, based on the Leopold Bros.' research, pre-Prohibition whiskeys were barreled at a lower proofs. Therefore, their Small Batch Whiskey goes into the wood at just 98 proof. 

In keeping with their "hard way" approach, they intentionally age it for a relatively short amount of time but in full-sized 53 gallon barrels.  Many craft distilleries age whiskeys in much smaller barrels to maximize the oak effect as quickly as possible and get whiskey to the marketplace. The Leopold Bros. march to the beat of their own drummer though. Their intent is to deliver a clean, grain forward flavor that Americans would have found familiar in the late 1800's and early 1900's, not to sell as much of it as possible. 

While it's certainly odd for a regular bourbon drinker to sip on a whiskey with barely any caramel, vanilla, or cinnamon spice, it was a refreshing change of pace.

Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Whiskey

Leopold Bros. Distillery
86 proof

Color: Golden, translucent straw.  Very light.

Nose:  The nose reflects almost no oak influence whatsoever. It smells like white dog, not aged whiskey. I get corn stalk, earthy soil, a pleasant rubbery scent, and softer fruity elements- grape and strawberry.  I nosed my second pour of this for way too long and either picked up campfire smoke or started hallucinating.  

Tasting Notes:  On the palate, the grains certainly come through strongest.  Corn, rye, some cinnamon, some vanilla, some fruit.  The fruit is predominantly a crisp, white grape juice. The mouth feel/body are both soft and pleasant.  The finish is medium and carries just a slight, subtle burn.

Overall: B-. The nose isn't my favorite- it reminded me of other premium white dog whiskeys I've nosed/sipped.  The flavor profile, however, is unique and really pleasant.  This whiskey will be perfect for future tasting events, to be used as the first sip and compared with older, bolder whiskeys.  It is masterfully distilled, but its youth takes some time and knowledge to appreciate.  

Peer reviews:

*Disclaimer: The Leopold Bros. kindly provided me with a sample of their Small Batch American Whiskey, no strings attached.  Thank you.