After aging for almost five years, Great Lakes Distillery’s Menomonee Valley Straight Rye Whiskey was bottled and served last week. And now, it’s already almost gone.
Unaware of its limited availability and the popularity of the spirit since it hit shelves, I almost missed out on tasting it. However, during our visit to Great Lake’s Distillery’s tasting room last night, owner Guy Rehorst noted my disappointment and busted out a bottle from his private reserves and had the bartender make us one of the best sazeracs I’ve ever had.
The batch only produced 544 hand-numbered bottles, 100 of which were originally available at the distillery. It is still available at a few Milwaukee establishments, including Lulu, Burnhearts and Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room.
"It was fun. It was the ultimate experiment," says master distiller and project manager Doug MacKenzie.
The whiskey was named after Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley which had a distillery on its north bluff in the late 1800s.
The spirit was aged for exactly four years and eight months in 53 gallon new charred American oak barrels. I had the opportunity to have a sneak taste two years ago while reporting on a distillery tour, but the finished product – which is 90 proof – was even smoother than I remembered.
Mackenzie remembers roasting the malt over applewood years ago. Early in the aging process, he says, you could taste the smokiness from the process but as it aged longer it went away.
However, even though he doesn’t taste the apple wood anymore, the flavor is still packed with meaning.
"I remember roasting it over a grill I had set up in my driveway. I had a pot of chili on the stove and the Packers game was on inside and I kept running in and out of the house to catch parts of the game," he says. "It was a beautiful fall day and every time I drink this, I get those good memories. It’s pretty sentimental for me."
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