Curtis McMillan
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Fishing for something good in micro whiskey

Growing up my dad told me “don’t say anything at all if you have nothing nice to say”.

This message has stuck with me, and I use it when I write.

If you have seen more than three of my articles you can tell all of them are positive. This may sound like I’m just trying to keep the brands happy, but in truth I’m only covering things that I like.

I get lots of samples from people that taste appalling and I simply choose to say nothing at all. It is because of this line in the sand that I have kept away from writing about micro distilleries.

You see, in American in the last five years we have had an increase in micro distilleries. A micro distillery is a distillery that is much smaller than a traditional distillery. Most of them sell a gin or vodka to make money and then tinker with bourbon and other whiskey.

When I say tinker it is not a good thing; to me the art of making good whiskey is not a side job but a full time investment. Due to this I have waited a year to get the right funding for my own distillery. I wanted to make sure that when I create whiskey it’s evident in the quality that we don’t tinker.

The issue with most micro distilleries is they are cookie cutter for the most part. You can see the hopes and dreams of people rolling off the assembly lines of still manufacturer’s like Bavarian Holstein, and Vendome. In the end most young whiskey entrepreneurs don’t understand the hard work and science needed to make a distillery work. At the end of the day even the consumer thinks running a whiskey distillery is a bed of roses. Trust me it’s not.

After hard back-breaking days of manual labour we are forced to play the role of salesman and go out into the world trying to convince people why they should buy us over brands that spend millions of dollars in advertising.

With that being said, it’s time to get to the point of all this. When I started to build my business plan for my own distillery I was looking around at the other micro distilleries to see and taste what they had up their sleeve. Most are 10 years away from being drinkable and most don’t understand that people associate spirits with a memory. This memory can be the brand their dad drank or a group of friends playing cards and drinking a fine single malt.

I understood from day one that this association was important for a brand, but it would mean nothing if the juice in the bottle was undrinkable. So, as I looked for people who got the idea right, I found Dry Fly distillery in Washington. The website and marketing where clean and the idea was easy to get.

Growing up in northern Colorado hunting and fishing myself I understood the feeling they wanted to showcase to the consumer. I was already intrigued and became even more so after hearing rumours of tours in the distillery with fly fishing trips. This act of blending together great spirit with a great adventure would implant something that none of the industrial distilleries would ever be able to showcase.

In the end the only real question was: Is Dry Fly just gimmick, or is the juice drinkable?

Kent Fleischmann, left, Don Poffenroth and Patrick Donovan of Dry Fly Distillery at the company’s headquarters in Spokane, Wash. AP Photo

I was unable to cover this until a few days ago when I got a few samples from Kent, the owner. I was shocked at the grain choice and using such high proof whiskey. I found it to be more than first-class and would recommend it over most industrial whiskey.

It’s not just good enough to build bourbon in today’s market; you need new grains and you need to be creative with your wood. His Triticale hybrid wheat single grain was the kind of new discovery that you enjoy with the same awe and wonder as I did catching my first fish off the fly fishing rod.

It’s hard to believe that Kent is part of the micro distillery movement with such good whiskey in his portfolio. I can say with total certainty that his juice is worth it. I hope other young whiskey micro distilleries can take a lead out of his play book and I know for my own distillery I hope to.

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