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. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Before diving into whiskey production, Alan Laws was a serious collector. He founded Laws Whiskey House in 2011 in Denver, CO. Drawn to local grains after discovering some at a local brew shop, Laws notes that he “was blown away by its freshness, intense flavor, and performance during fermentation.” He waited three years to release his first whiskey so as to only offer house-distilled and aged products from local grains.
The house philosophy is “grain-to-glass [meaning] each batch is milled, cooked, fermented [in open-top fermenters], distilled [in a copper pot still], and aged on-site, utilizing heirloom grains from family-owned Colorado farms.” This is about as local as a whiskey can get without the distillery growing the grains. Independent Stave Company provides the new barrels for aging at char #3.
Laws pioneered the four-grain style of bourbon (corn, rye, wheat, and barley), which is the flagship style of the distillery. The whiskeys with age statements are bottled-in-bond, or bonded, which means that each release is distilled in one season and aged for a minimum for four years in a bonded warehouse before being cut to 50% ABV.
As specialists in distilling heirloom and locally grown Coloradan grains, Laws Whiskey House provides the serious amounts of information provided on each release. You can sense the excitement and obsession. The website offers a deep dive into the production of this spirit, with a detailed tech sheet and novella-length production notes in announcements. There’s no way that this level of attention to detail can’t not be present in the whiskeys themselves, including their latest bonded straight wheat, the Laws Whiskey House Seven-Year Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey Batch 5.
This 100% wheat whiskey was released in June and is the oldest release of the bonded wheat by the producer to date. Only 2,100 bottles were produced from a nine-barrel selection. Last year’s release, a five-year-old, was quite special bottling. It was smooth and mild with a refreshing bitterness to the finish. The distillery states that this release, with two extra years of aging, should offer a more “pronounced oak profile layered with the spicy, sweet bread, and citrus notes this whiskey is known for. The additional barrel character interacts nicely with notes of strawberries, orange marmalade, jasmine tea, and pink peppercorn.”
Note the flavor profile at the end of the quote. This is the distillery’s tasting notes for their younger 100% wheat whiskey. How can there be a house flavor profile for bonded whiskey? It’s consistent partly because this is all made from the same wheat variety grown by the same grower in the same area.
The grain is “soft white Centennial wheat [that is] grown for Laws Whiskey House by the Cody Family Farm in Alamosa, Colorado,” according to their release notes. Centennial wheat is a soft white wheat. The hardness refers to the texture of the kernels and their relative ease in milling. Soft wheat has more “starch than hard winter wheat, adding sweetness and aiding with fermentation,” according to Laws.
When grown for flour, soft wheat is typically used for baked goods that need less gluten, such as cakes and muffins. Hard wheat typically is used for things that require more gluten development, such as breads. White wheat, whether hard or soft, tends to have less protein than red and a milder flavor as well.
How does all this technical information translate into the experience in the glass? Let’s find out.
Vital Stats: Barrels were aged seven years and nine months on average in new American oak, 50% ABV, mash bill: 100% heirloom Centennial wheat, SRP $79.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is a moderately light golden amber in color with a greenish-yellow undertone.
Nose: The first impression is of a punchy spirit with fruity and vanilla notes. The aromatics leap from the glass upon pouring. As it opens up, this kid gets down the business. There’s a whiff of volatile acidity that transforms into red cherries and Sweet Tart candies. The nose is mostly savory, though, with notes of oatmeal cookies, melted butter, and toasted walnuts. This does show its age in comparison to the five-year, which had a more raw flour note. This ends with a touch of shoe polish and shucked corn.
Palate: The whiskey is more medium-bodied than viscous with a harsh astringency to its finish that keeps the palate clean. It’s not sugary, but there is a sweetness to the taste. I pick up notes of sesame crackers, buttered toffee, creamed corn, and pecan clusters. There’s oodles of flavors and lots of complexity to enjoy without being cloying or overbearing.
The finish is fairly long in length. I would hate to use this as a mixer with anything but a dash of water or ice, it’s simply too complex and delicious on its own.