Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

At Death’s Door

White whiskey seems to be a misnomer. It doesn’t look like whiskey, because it’s clear. Is it moonshine? Not necessarily, says Matthew Rowley, author of what’s become the home distilling bible, Moonshine! He defines moonshine as whiskey, vodka, grappa or anything else that’s produced from an unlicensed, illegal still. Is it white dog? Not always, I learned from Max Watman’s fascinating book, Chasing The White Dog. White dog refers to any uncut spirit coming straight from the still, illicit or otherwise. So, what exactly is white whiskey then? Whiskey that’s been distilled legally from the usual mash bill, barrel aged for 72 hours, cut to proof and bottled. Novelty brands like Georgia Moon and Platte Valley have been around for some time, but a new generation of artisanal distillers is now making excellent examples of the stuff. Death’s Door White Whiskey will be the first of this bunch to hit shelves on the Missouri side later this month, promises Peter Wilkins of Artisanal Distillates, who had me around to his office for a tasting earlier this week. The DD white whiskey is 40% ABV and made with organic hard red winter wheat and a bit of malted barley. The nose is sweet and grainy. Malted grain comes through in the flavor as well, with a bit of vanilla and an earthiness that reminded me of tequila. All the bones of a good whiskey are there. A few years in oak would pad it out, but I’m quite happy Death’s Door bottled it as-is. I don’t know that I’d sip it solo, but it works quite well in cocktails such as the White Manhattan I had a few weeks ago in San Francisco, courtesy of Nopa’s Neyah White. Buffalo Trace is moving its White Dog (made from corn, rye and malted barley and weighing in at 62.5% ABV) out of the gift shop and into selected markets this summer. If that goes well, we might see some here next year. For Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Wasmund’s Rye Spirit and other well-reviewed white whiskies, you can go online. For now, be sure to stop at Death’s Door.

Peter Wilkins of Artisanal Distillates guides me through a tasting of Death's Door vodka, gin and white whiskey.