For the Love of Whiskey and Wine
February issue of 5280 Magazine
Breckenridge Distillery’s whiskey innovation will surprise your palate with wine cask finished whiskies.
Breckenridge Distillery was the proud (frankly giddy) recipient of the Icons of Whisky 2018 Brand Innovator of the Year award from the World Whiskies Awards. Innovation is a characteristic of the Breckenridge Distillery. It is illustrated in the innovation of the wide array of wine cask finished whiskies. “Creating and assembling flavors and mouthfeel is what we do, and there are no parameters we won’t change to make a better whiskey,” says Founder and CEO Bryan Nolt. Grains and yeast undergo a fantastic journey to become whiskey, and the time spent in barrel has dramatic effect. The Breckenridge Distillery uses a mash bill of corn, rye, and barley for its whiskeys. The most natural flavor combination with this mash bill is Port. They go together like PB&J.
So, naturally the first wine cask release was Breckenridge Bourbon finished in Tawny Port wine barrels to create Breckenridge Distillery’s Port Cask Finish Whiskey, winner of 2017’s Best American Blended at the World Whiskies Awards. From there you need to decide whether to focus on enhancing subtle neutral fruit, dense sweet fruit, or more eclectic flavors such as walnut. In the Breckenridge Distillery’s case, they decided to balance many of these flavors but pushed the concentrated fruits forward. The Port Cask Finish Whiskey showcases notes of dark fruit like plum and cherry, which temper the high rye content of the initial spirit.
The PX Sherry Cask Finish, awarded 2018’s Best American Blended by the World Whiskies Awards, came out of Nolt’s obsession for Scotch Whiskies finished in Sherry casks along with a love for Sherry alone. It took years to find the correct cask pairing on this one as he wanted the traditional dryness of sherry to cut through. In the end, they needed the concentrated sugars of the Pedro Ximenez grape to soften the dry edge. The barrels come from an ancient Solera in the Andalusia region of Spain. The PX barrels impart a golden raisin characteristic, followed by a dry white pepper finish.
For the Sauternes, the Breck Distillery wanted to get the noble rot of Sauternes together with the sweet and subtle fruity notes from the whiskey. They jumped at the chance when they had the opportunity to get their hands on barrels from Chateau D’Yquem. The rich Sauternes barrels imbue the whiskey with subtle notes of apricot, white peach and artisanal honey. The barrels were reluctant to give up the goods, so the whiskey spent 465 days finishing in the Sauternes Barrels. It turned out to be the ideal whiskey release for their tenth anniversary celebration in fall of 2018.
CEO Bryan Nolt sums up the raison d’etre of Breckenridge Distillery: “Philosophically we are different than most. Breckenridge Distillery is my obsession and was born by combining an unbridled passion to create along with maniacal love of Whiskey. The consequence of this marriage is a quality-first product, and translating that to a successful business requires building a company packed with high performing associates. We’ve been in business for a decade and learned that our mojo only works when our associates (others call them employees) operate in unison like ninjas. Our products are certainly different due to the unique qualities of the water here in Breckenridge. It’s perfect for mashing and blending spirits due to its hardness, high minerality and low iron content. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it terroir, but we could never create products of the same quality elsewhere, even if we’re just talking about blending and proofing.”