A decade after opening, Twisted Path Distillery, 2018 S. 1st St., is about to release just its second bourbon.
That’s because, owner and distiller Brian Sammons has built a successful distillery and tasting room on other spirits and top-notch cocktails, allowing him time to properly age his whiskey, without tricks, gimmicks, sourcing or early release.
When Twisted Path opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 12, it will have somewhere just short of 250 bottles of its new 112 proof bourbon for sale on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are no limits and no holds. The 750ml bottles sell for $75. (The exact quantity available depends on how many Sammons decides to keep back for use in the tasting room.)
“Overall my business plan's not a whiskey-focused one,” says Sammons, whose previous bourbon was released in 375ml bottles on Black Friday 2021.
“A lot of startup distilleries, their whole plan is like just hang on 'til the whiskey's ready, and then it's just whiskey country. That's not really what I'm doing. We're not putting up millions of dollars in barrels.”
Instead, Sammons has released vodka, white rum, dark rum, gin, a chai liqueur, an unsual Bloody Mary mix (with the alcohol, just add tomato juice, not the other way around).
But don’t think Twisted Path has eschewed whiskey altogether. In fact, Sammons has released a number of them, but almost always rye, which have been popular with customers in bottle sales.
“I really like rye,” he says with a smile.
And rye in bottles is, by now, pretty much always available for sale in the tasting room, though initial batches sold out immediately.
But, today we’re talking bourbon and, specifically, this new bourbon, which like its predecessor is five years old. However, in real terms, most of it is a tad older than that.
The whiskey is a blend of four barrels, two of which were just over six years old and two of which were just under six. By law, that means it’s five years old.
The mash bill is 68 percent corn (organic yellow sweet corn and organic hopi blue) and 32 percent organic rye.
“Out of the barrels, the proof was in the high 130s, which was just too hot for most people to appreciate all the character in it,” Sammon says. “We slowly proofed it down, sampling along the way, and at 112 the flavor popped; it opened up.
“So we stopped there.”
Sammons typically distills a barrel’s worth of whiskey at a time, so four barrels means four batches. And he almost never distills the same exact thing twice.
“The way I've been doing it is one barrel, one batch,” he explains. “And I tweak the batches every time. So I'm playing with different fermentation temperatures, yeasts, differently managed barrels.
“Then I can play around with the combinations of them. Sometimes the combination adds up to more than sum of its parts. The blending of barrels is a real art.”
There’s a bit of heat, as you’d expect in a 112 proof whiskey, but its also richly flavored with prominent dried orange peel, a touch of clove and an underlying layer of the expected vanilla for balance.
It’s a really nice bourbon and, although Twisted Path is creating some special cocktail recipes (including a whiskey sour) in which to pour it, I wouldn’t put this into anything other than a clean glass, maybe with a big round rock to soften it slightly.
But you can enjoy it however you like it, assuming you’re lucky enough to get a bottle.
“When we released bourbon before,” Sammons says, “it sold out within a few hours.”
Get there early.
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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.