Recently, Great Lakes Distillery released some of the first bottled in bond rye to come out of Milwaukee since Prohibition and this week it will launch a bourbon with that distinction, too.
Bottled in bond whiskeys, according to the 1897 law, must be bottled at 100 proof, aged at least four years, contain no additives and be distilled by a single distillery in a single season.
These GLD Still and Oak BiB whiskeys were distilled with all-Wisconsin grains. The malt comes from Briess in Chilton and the other grains are sourced from a farm near East Troy, according to Great Lakes founder and owner Guy Rehorst.
“Still and Oak has been a mainstay for us for the last couple years, and has gotten a lot of really good reviews and people have really, really liked it,” says Rehorst. “We plan to release the bottled in bond version of the Still and Oak every year.
Rehorst says the releases will typically arrive in early autumn and expects to have about four barrels of each at a time. That equates to somewhere in the range of 800-1,000 bottles.
The whiskeys are the same as the standard Still and Oak releases, but are bottled at 100 proof. The age of typical non-BiB releases is no less than two years but can also be four or more years, depending on demand.
“This is the first year and you can see the color,” says Rehorst, holding up the bourbon in a Glencairn glass. “I couldn't believe that color on this stuff. It's amazing.”
The bourbon is rich in vanilla with hints of citrus and a light edge, but the rye is round and smooth, with just a dash of pepper and a richer mouthfeel, likely due to the presence of malted rye.
Rehorst says there’s about 22 percent malted rye in the BiB rye mash bill.
“It's interesting,” Rehorst says, “we've had a few people who tasted it and said, ‘you know, I love bourbon. I'm usually not huge on rye, but this rye is ridiculously good’.”
While the rye has been available for a week or more in the tasting room, 616 W. Virginia St., in Walker’s Point, it should be arriving at retail this week.
The bourbon will be officially launched with an event at the tasting room on Oct. 13 and will then head to retail outlets.
It’s a busy time over at Great Lakes, where a new bottling line was installed earlier this year, allowing for the streamlining of the bottling process.
Until recently, Rehorst would bring in a few people to bottle and label four bottles at a time, but the new automated line can handle as many as 800 bottles and hour.
Rehorst is also preparing to move barrels out of its distillery and into a new rented warehouse space a few blocks west.
He began renting the space a few months ago, installed an improved sprinkler system and is ready to begin moving barrels, which will create much needed elbow room in the stillhouse, where the bottling line will remain.
Wandering through and looking at barrels, we saw some cool stuff that will be coming in future years, including a malt whiskey distilled from a special batch of hop-less Riverwest Stein brewed to a higher ABV by Lakefront Brewery.
That’s likely to be a future Black Friday release.
This year’s Black Friday release will be an especially big deal. Rehorst decided to bottle a single barrel of his oldest bourbon and the day after Thanksgiving, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to buy a 12-year-old Menomonee Valley bourbon.
That’s probably the oldest bourbon distilled and aged in Wisconsin – definitely Milwaukee – since Prohibition.
The four-grain whiskey – corn, rye, malt and wheat – is bottled and last week the labels arrived for the 153 bottles’ worth of whiskey that the angels left behind.
This precious juice was bottled at 90 proof. Stay tuned for more on this as I will stop over for a tasting before the release.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.