If the name Sexy Motor Oil (SMO) doesn’t intrigue you enough, then the story behind it will. So here we go. It is not uncommon for the Breckenridge Distillery to be confused with the Breckenridge Brewery and vice versa. That is reason enough to collaborate, but let’s set things straight, we distill whiskey and they brew beer.
SMO started as Breckenridge Brew Pub’s Imperial Oatmeal Stout. We asked Hans Stafsholt, Breckenridge Distillery’s Head Distiller, Jimmy Walker, Breckenridge Brew Pub’s Head Brewer and Breckenridge Brew Pub Brewers Stone Fisher and Suzanne Nance to tell the story about their Sexy Motor Oil beer and why we decided to turn that into a beer-barrel whiskey.
This is the first time we have produced a beer-barreled whiskey and it is damn good. This collab kickstarted a larger partnership with Breckenridge Brewery with our biggest collaborative release still to come winter 2021. Already in production, we are taking our successes and learnings from our SMO Whiskey and simultaneously releasing Breckenridge Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout Beer along with a beer-barreled Whiskey. It will be something similar to SMO, but different…we’ve probably said too much already.
“They get our barrels for their Sexy and we get their barrels back for our Sexy,” Hans Stafsholt, Head Distiller.
When designing the label, Bryan Nolt Founder and CEO wanted something subtle because the whisky itself was already so complex. Breckenridge Distillery Creative Director Connie Turner put pencil to paper to design something simple yet “sexy.”
The name, Sexy Motor Oil
A few years ago now, Jimmy and Suzanne were doing a little “market research” (if you will) after a long day’s work at her husband Anthony’s bar, Kenosha Steakhouse. They cruised over to talk shop and sip on the infamous Bourbon County from Goose Island Brewing in Chicago. Bourbon County is a beers nerd’s Phoenix, coveted and hard to come by, most noted for its boozy notes and dreamy smooth finish. Anthony was taking sips of beer with them and out of his mouth came…”Yummmm, this is like sexy motor oil!” Jimmy and Suzanne’s ears perked up, they looked at each other with a mutual smirk of brewer’s insider knowledge and Jimmy stated: “we’re creating a beer for that name.” And thus, Sexy Motor Oil was born. “We knew the name before we knew the beer,” said Suzanne. “Getting SMO’d is for real!”
Barrel-aged beer to beer-barreled whiskey
SMO was brewed to be very high in alcohol and easily taken as a “shot” replacement. The bold, smooth flavors of chocolate and roasted barley complement the flavors of our whiskey perfectly. We fantasized about how we could do a collaboration using these barrels to age the whiskey for a full loop. “They get our barrels for their Sexy and we get their barrels back for our Sexy,” said Hans Stafsholt.
Hans Stafsholt and Blake Schwalls/Breckenridge Brew Pub filling empty Breckenridge Bourbon barrels with SMO
“SMO and Breckenridge Whiskey work so well together because, on the surface, they both have quite intense flavors,” explains Stone Fisher. “The more experienced taster will begin to discover the intense caramel notes of whiskey pairing with the chocolate notes of the SMO. The high alcohols of the whiskey can be muddled by the smoothness of the SMO. By aging & reverse aging, both products benefit by gaining flavors that otherwise couldn’t be imparted during their respective production processes.”
The production process
Our whiskey barrels are freshly dumped and personally taken to the brewery to be filled with their SMO Imperial Stout. SMO has the most complex grain bill of any beer the Brewery brews; rye barley, roasted barley, double roasted crystal malt, chocolate malt and oatmeal. All of these malts combine to give SMO a smooth, rich complex flavor.
Breckenridge Distillery filling the freshly dumped SMO barrels with Breckenridge Bourbon
These barrels are monitored for flavor and maturation rate (each barrel is different) over the course of the beer’s residency right up until the Brewery feels the beer has the right balance of bourbon characteristics. Months, to sometimes more than a year later, the Brewery harvests the beer from the barrels and get them back to the Distillery as quick as possible, sometimes in 20 minutes or less. For 7-9 months, the whiskey sits in the beer barrels mingling with the stout flavors left in the barrel. Once the barrels have reached the perfect flavor profile, we empty the barrels, decide on the perfect proof, in this case, 107 proof, bottle it and it hits the shelves.
Well, we started off with 37 cases but due to “market research” (a.k.a. taste testing), we are down to 30. We expect that this will fly off the shelves. It will be released on Valentine’s Day 2021 exclusively sold at Breckenridge Distillery’s two locations. The good news, we have another barrel aging that could bring a second release in the future.