What do get when you take the wort from a fantastic micro brewed ale, add distiller’s yeast, double distill the result, and then stick it charred oak barrels for a month or so? You get a young Whiskey that is just far enough past moonshine to be interesting but not far enough to be $30 – $40/bottle.
Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey, created by the crew at Rogue Brewery, is based on the same 4 grain recipe that forms the hearty Dead Guy Ale. If you troll the net for reviews on this whiskey and you’ll probably find that the Malt Gurus have railed against this creation for it’s youth, harshness, and lack of balance but unbalanced flavors and youth are what makes most micro brewed beers great. One would expect a whiskey born in a micro brewery to be more like it’s sudsy siblings than it’s distant single malt cousins.
My first tasting of Dead Guy Whiskey found it to indeed be young and harsh but not without it redeeming qualities. At room temperature it is briny, peppery, sweet, and grassy with a warming quality and flavor similar to a coastal Scottish single malt but less refined. Adding a little ice takes the edge off the harshness but most of the flavors vanish leaving only sweetness and pepper.
While a neat experiment this spirit is one that would do with a few more months (or years) of aging in oak. I hope that they have put some of this aside and will release an older version later. It has the potential to be a fine whiskey but is not there yet nor is it worth the $30 – $40 price tag. If you find this stuff on special at your local liquor merchant, like I did, give it a try but otherwise mooch some off your neighbor if you are interested in a taste.