45th Parallel is a distillery with momentum. The maker of critically acclaimed vodka, including the beloved Referent horseradish, and a new dill-flavored aquavit has jumped into the whiskey game. And their first run of bourbon burnishes an already impressive track record.
Not much aged whiskey has yet come out of Wisconsin’s small group of craft distillers, although a few have jumped on the white whiskey trend. 45th Parallel began making whiskey right upon opening, on a contract basis for a farmer who had a license to barrel but not produce. It was after buying back some of this product and noting its quality that they planned a full foray into brown spirits.
Border Bourbon continues 45th Parallel’s reputation for regional sourcing and full “grain to glass” production. The grains come from Roberts, WI and much of the oak in their barrels is from Wisconsin (though it is mostly coopered in Kentucky). Even their bottle caps are local — made by the plastics company next door to the distillery.
The spirit is comprised of a majority of corn, like all bourbons, with some rye and wheat rounding out the mix. The distillery also employs a touch of Briess’ two-row malted barley, which helps begin the conversion of starches to sugars in the pre-fermented mash.
After two years in new oak barrels, the first run of about 1,000 bottles was released last Sunday. It shows off a brilliant caramel color that’s quite deep for such a limited aging period. The nose delivers lots of fresh oak and light toast vapors with a sort of brown sugar sweetness. The sip comes on easy with mild toffee notes, and then turns luscious and fruity towards the end. The $45 price tag reflects a dollar-intensive manufacturing process, but in turn delivers value in top notch quality control from start to finish.
Border Bourbon noticeably lacks that hefty, vanilla sweetness on the mid-palate common to Maker’s Mark and other popular bourbons. “Ours had it for the first year and a half,” says co-owner Scott Davis (pictured, above), “but then it mellowed in the last six months. With our Rye, the first six months it smelled entirely like apples. Since then, it’s become fickle like a Pinot Noir and the fruit kind of dropped out. It’s still a bit harsh — it needs more time.”
Davis hopes to have some of that rye whiskey available by the end of the year. A limited run of wheat whiskey is also currently in barrel, set to debut sometime in 2013. For now, you’ll have to truck out to the New Richmond distillery to get any of their whiskey, but it’s a scant one hour that’s worth the drive. Expect distribution of Border Bourbon to hit Minneapolis around one year from now.
45th Parallel Spirits
1570 Madison Ave
New Richmond, WI 54017