Do I Dare to Drink a Peach?

A few weeks ago I attended the American Distilling Institute’s public tasting event at Hangar One in Alameda, CA. One of the more interesting things I tried was a peach whiskey made by Peach Street Distillers, located in Colorado. This was not a “for sale” product but rather something the distillers had made for themselves, a bottle of which they’d brought along as something of an “under the table” treat. It piqued my interest sufficiently to do a little research and ultimately to discover that Leopold Bros. makes a Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey which was actually available for sale. Impressed with their other products, I decided to purchase a bottle and give it a try.

The Taste

Before talking about the taste of this whiskey, I should first mention that it is apparently produced in rather small batches and bottled several times a year. I stumbled upon this fact when I noticed that the bottle I purchased held a much darker colored spirit than the bottles I had seen on the shelf of another liquor store. Curious about these variations, I contacted Leopold Bros. by email and got a reply from Todd Leopold on this matter. Here’s what he had to say:

“The color in our fruit whiskies does not primarily come from the barrel. It comes from, as you guessed, oxidation of the fruit sugars. The longer it sits in a gas permeable barrel, the darker it becomes. So what you are noticing is the variation in oxidation levels.

“Normally, an oxidized peach is a bad thing. But when it is blended with whiskey, the oxidation of the peaches isn’t as aggressive, and leads to more interesting flavors and aromas like raisins and plums. This oxidation doesn’t occur on the shelves so much as it does in the oak barrel.”

Todd also told me that they are combining their own “new make” whiskey with the peaches and then aging this blend in used bourbon barrels purchased from Heaven Hill in Kentucky. This of course lends a lot of character to the result.

After learning all of this I decided it would be interesting to pick up a second bottle from a different batch so I could compare the two side by side. Below are my tasting notes.

Batch 08 05

The first bottle I purchased is marked “08 05″ (for 5th bottling of 2008, if I understood Todd’s encoding properly). This batch (which may now be sold out) has a distinct mahogany color – much darker than the other bottling as you can see in the photo. The nose is very raisiny with earthy-peppery notes and a hint of toffee. The raisin character carried directly through into the taste, which coated my tongue and lingered for a very long time. I almost felt as if I was drinking a very old TBA riesling or fortified desert-style wine rather than a whiskey. However despite the suggestion of oxidation, there was nothing dried out or “hot” about this spirit. It’s a bit like drinking liquid fruit. Delicious!
Batch 05_05 Georgia Peach Flavored Whiskey

Batch 08 09

The second bottle I purchased is marked “08 09″ (for the 9th bottling of 2008). This batch is lighter in color than the 08 05, closer to an orange-amber. The nose is also quite different as well and led with much more bourbon character, complemented by citrus peel and vanilla notes. The palate, again quite different from the 08 05, was brighter and crisper, less rich and unctuous. As sweet and fruity as it was, I knew I was drinking a whiskey.
Batch 08_09 Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey

(Aside: I should mention that according to the Leopold Bros. website they are now also making a Rocky Mountain Peach-flavored Whiskey. I have not yet gotten a chance to try this nor have I even seen it for sale here in the bay area. I did however spy an 2009 bottling of the Georgia peach on the shelves at BevMo today.)

The Cocktails

I actually found this something of tricky ingredient to use in a cocktail. I believe that’s because its got such a broad flavor profile: sweet, sour and earthy all at once. If you use too much, it tends to dominate the drink; use too little and it tends to get lost. I concentrated on spirituous formulations and perhaps it would prove more versatile in cocktail that include juices and/or syrups.

Note that all these drinks were formulated with the 08 05 batch.

The J. Alfred Prufrock (AKA Peach Old Fashioned)

1 1/2 oz. Rye (Rittenhouse 100 proof suggested)
3/4 oz. Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey
1 Sugar cube
2″ Lemon peel
Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

Muddle the sugar cube with 1 – 2 dashes of the bitters.
Add the lemon peel and muddle a bit more to express the oils.
Add spirits and ice (a single chunk if you have it)
Stir to chill.

Note: You need to be careful not to over bitter this drink.

J Alfred Prufrock (AKA Peach OF)
Highland Peach

2 oz. Macallan 12 y/o Single Malt
1/2 oz. Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey
1/4 oz. Benedictine (to add a little spice)

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass, add ice, stir to chill.
Strain and serve over a large block of ice in an OF glass.
Garnish with a lime peel.

A Peachy Manhattan

2 oz. Wild Turkey Rye
1 oz. Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey
1/4 oz. Navan Vanilla Cognac Liqueur

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass, add ice, stir to chill.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with brandied cherry.

Note: I tried making the manhattan several different ways: with red vermouth, Aperol and then with two different amari (Ramazotti and Nonino). To my palate none of these drinks were quite right. In particular, a bitter component really seems to play poorly against the dried fruit intensity of the whiskey. Even the Aperol, which generally plays well with others, seemed a bit out of place in this context.


Bajan Peach

2 oz. Mount Gay Special Reserve Rum
1 oz. Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach-flavored Whiskey
1/4 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 oz. Lime Juice

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass, add ice, shake to chill.
Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with brandied cherry.

Note: you may need to tinker with this one depending on how strongly flavored your cinnamon syrup is, as well as how sweet.

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