Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey
This is an American single malt whiskey produced in the Santa Fe Spirits Distillery at Tesuque, New Mexico. It is distilled from 100% malted barley and bottled at 46% ABV. In contrast to scotch, the barley is dried with mesquite rather than peat. It is double pot-distilled, and aged in oak casks in the high desert of Southwest. Typical of American single malts, this is a non-age statement whiskey, but is relatively young from what I could determine (possibly somewhere from 2-4 years).
On the nose, the mesquite influenced smoke is readily apparent, but not as predominant as I had anticipated. The smoke is clearly distinct from any you would associate with whiskey or Scotches where the barley is peat dried. A barbecue-like smoke mingling with sweet toffee, vanilla and some savory herbal elements.
The mesquite smoke is present on first sip, but more as a complement to the other flavors than as a primary note. I find sweet notes of chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel as well as some earthy fruit sensations. There is a bit of warmth, perhaps delicately peppered. I am struck by the balance, maybe because I like a bit of smoke, and the way in which the mesquite lightly permeates the flavors.
The finish is medium, with a bit of raspberry, toffee and smoke. Again, the mesquite smoke is always present, but not dominant.
I like both the taste profile and the price of this whiskey. Some of the reviews that have been written suggest that it might be popular with those who like Islay single malts. While Colkegan brings some Scotch-like barley malted character, it tosses a curve with the mesquite smoke. I find Westland Peated Single Malt, which uses peat in the drying process, to be an American whiskey that is much closer to Scotch whisky. What I like here is the distinct profile of scent and flavor of Colkegan that is well balanced, but more like a distant cousin of Scotch. In addition, it is a very affordable whiskey, currently selling for a little over $60 a bottle.
If you enjoy whiskeys with a bit of smoke, I suspect you would find this an interesting dram.
I should note that I am not alone in my assessment of Colkegan as a desirable American whiskey. The Santa Fe Spirits website lists the following awards:
- 2017 Silver Medal American Distilling Institute
- 2017 Bronze Medal American Craft Spirits Association
- 2016 Gold Medal Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival
- 2016 Silver Medal Whiskies of the World Awards
- 2016 Bronze Medal San Francisco World Spirits Competition
- 2015 Gold Medal Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival
- 2015 Gold Medal from American Distiller’s Institute
- 2014 Silver Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
- 2014 Gold Medal for the Telluride Colorado Distillery Tasting
- 2013 Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival – Silver