Whiskey is a waiting game, but sometimes good things come early. That was the case with Low Gap Single Barrel No. 1, a craft distillate made in an antique Cognac still.
The Low Gap whiskey, created by Craft Distillers in Ukiah, California, in the heart of Mendocino, was intended for at least four years of aging, yet results have been so positive that the company has chosen to debut a single barrel as a sneak peek at how well things are going.
The small run is the brainchild of Crispin Cain, an apprentice of Hubert Germain-Robin, who came to America after his family Cognac business was sold to Martell. The small (420-gallon), antique Cognac still was brought over from the old Surrenne distillery with the intention of using it for varietal apples, but Cain found it made soft, clean, round whiskeys.
Distilled in late 2010 from a fermentation of 100 percent malted Bavarian wheat, it was bottled early this year. The whiskey was aged in a 53-gallon former Bourbon barrel. Later bottlings are intended to marry in whiskey aged in French Limousin oak and former Port casks as well.
To add to the ethic of the whiskey, it is brought down to bottle proof with the addition of rain water. The miniscule run (240 bottles) of whiskey will mostly be released in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you're among the fortunate who get a taste, be sure to try it with a cigar.
(Cigar pairings on next page)
Low Gap Single Barrel No. 1 (100.4 proof, or 50.2 percent alcohol by volume; two years old; $75 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Very light yellow color with a hint of amber. Beads into fat legs that run quickly down the glass.
NOSE: Mounds of fruit on the nose, with pears, apples and a bit of light wine. An oily hint serves as testament to its pot distilling.
PALATE: The pears come out instantly on the tongue, and as the sweetness calms out come its wheaty breadiness. After a moment it effervesces throughout the mouth and brings a spread of spices that include licorice and cinnamon. A load of complexity in a crisp, little whiskey
FINISH: The fruit returns on the long-lasting finish of a delicious pie.
CIGAR PAIRING: La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Valiente (6 1/4 inches by 60 ring gauge; $8.56; 91 Points
April 2013 Cigar Aficionado). Oily and attractive with an excellent draw and burn. It's full bodied with an array of spice flavors ranging from ginger and cinnamon to red and black pepper. A dried fruit note emerges on the finish. We chose this cigar with its fruit notes in mind, and it didn't disappoint. The two melded, escalating the pear and apple, and even bringing in a peach note. It becomes hard to tell when the whiskey or the La Flor is making or giving the donation, but in the end, who cares?
Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill (7 inches by 48 ring gauge; $10.50; 91 Points, June 2013 Cigar Aficionado) Flawlessly pressed with a richly colored wrapper, this large cigar is peppery and spicy before taking on a honey maple character, touches of cinnamon and a red wine finish. Tasty and bold. Spice is the focus of this pairing, as both light up with cinnamon, cloves and cinnamon that are more veiled when the two are enjoyed apart. The cigar's honey character also marries well with the Low Gap's implicit sweetness. Another seamless pairing.