Massively out of my comfort zone here, if I even have one, as this is probably the strangest dram I have ever tried. Hailing from joint brewery and distillery Seven Stills of San Francisco, this whiskey is created by double distilling their craft 10.8% Russian Imperial Stout and, during the second distillation, passing the spirit through a gin basket which is filled with hops. With little knowledge of this process, or of ever having heard of any beer-to-whiskey creations, I was intrigued.
Seven Stills have created seven whiskeys using their own craft beers, with each bottling named to represent one of the original seven hills that the city was built upon – this bottle, the Czar, is aptly named for Russian Hill.
Received as a gift from friends over Christmas (thank you, P & S!), I was keen to crack it open over New Year and see exactly what it was I had on my hands. Having made sure to try it early on prior to senses being dulled and my novice whisky brain being too lubricated, it turns out what I have is an alluring, perplexing dram which initially threw me when I opened it, but once I had gathered what little sense I possess, I really, really enjoyed it.
It’s a hearty 47% and bottled in 375ml size. There’s a reddish hue to the spirit when bottled, but it seems to take on a lighter, wispy note once poured into a Glencairn.
Nose: Hoppy. So very hoppy. There’s definitely a whiskey in the bottle/jar, but beer is the first thing that enters my mind – it instantly reminds me of walking past West Brewery in Glasgow on my way to play football at the Green. Initially I am taken aback by the nose – the first blast seems all beer and I subsequently spend a few minutes excitedly telling people who didn’t care about how perplexed I am. Having simmered down, I return to the whiskey and it now begins to release additional notes; firstly dark cocoa and coffee from the stout influence, followed by less robust aromas such as pears and liquorice. Very nice. 8/10
Palate: Again, the hoppy-ness is the obvious pick-up, and there’s a wee tang too, almost a sour note going on. Certainly a few spices with the bite of ginger appearing. There’s a silkiness to the mouthfeel – very stout-like – which pairs with the zesty spices. 8/10
Finish: More stout on the finish which is short and pleasant. There’s a wee sweetness that I think is about to creeps, but it is blunted by the almost-bitter-like coffee taste I get. 6.5/10