Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Malt whiskey starts its life, well its life as something we would consider alcohol, as beer. Not necessarily good beer, but beer. Malted grains, water, yeast, all you’re missing are hops. If you’re a regular whiskey consumer, and if you’re reading this article, you probably are, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in the number breweries producing whiskey.
Dogfish Head is a brewery in Milton, Delaware, founded in 1995. Since their founding, Dogfish Head have garnered an outstanding reputation for their craft beers. In 2002 they started to experiment with distilling and have become a brew-stillery. Or Distil-ewery? Whatever the proper nomenclature, Dogfish Head has a line of canned cocktails, gin, vodka, single malt whiskey, and rum.
Today we are exploring one of their newest limited release whiskeys, Dogfish Head Alternate Takes Volume 4. The whiskey is 74% finished in Samuel Adams Utopias barrels and 26% finished in Oloroso Sherry cask. According to Dogfish Head, the whiskey is aged three years in original cask before spending seven months in Samuel Adams Utopias Barrels, and a few more months in Oloroso Sherry barrels. All together you’re likely looking at a four year whiskey.
Utopia is a Samuel Adam specialty release. It is immensely popular with beer fans and has quite the following. It has a price tag to match, usually fetching around $200 or more per 750 ml bottle. Each release uses bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace, and they also age the beer in “Bourbon, Wine, Port and other barrels to formulate the final product.” Utopia is a staggering 28% abv when it is finally bottled.
This means Dogfish Head is doing a little more than advertised. This whiskey is, in a way, blending Spanish Oloroso sherry, bourbon, wine, and rum casks together with their whiskey. Sometimes these types of finishings can bring so much to the table you can’t figure out what exactly is going on. Sometimes though they are the exact right blend of proportions that you can’t put the glass down.
This is a limited edition small run of whiskey and something Dogfish Head appears to have worked very hard in putting together. The component pieces are all excellent, but will it translate into a whiskey worth finding? With that, we turn to the glass.
Tasting Notes: Dogfish Head Alternate Takes Volume 4
Vital Stats: 86 proof or 43% abv, limited offerings in DE, MD, NJ, NY, WA, and HI. $54.99 SRP.
Nose: Vanilla and brown sugar – almost a simple syrup smell. The nose is warm and inviting with delightful, sweet notes. All the best sugars in a baked good. As the sweetness fades you find grain husks of barley, wheat. I liken it to French toast without cinnamon.
Taste: The nose is the nose. The taste is the taste. This whiskey is warm and light with a soft charcoal backend. Upon successive sips I found pipe tobacco with a flash of pear sweetness hidden in the darker earth tones. Letting it rest the whiskey really opens to reveal more pear and tobacco. The finish is airy and light. It doesn’t linger too long but transitions off the tongue well.