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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Aging gracefully with Michigan whiskey

By Tim Chilcote

A version this post first appeared Thursday, April 7th, 2011 on The Great Lakes Guru. Tim was good enough to lend it to us so that we might begin remedying the problem of our embarrassing lack of spirit coverage. Thanks Tim!

Cheers to growing up and growing old with Michigan whiskey. New Holland Brewing was one of the first Michigan microbreweries I came to love. Then just when I was ready to test the waters of Michigan’s burgeoning distilling industry, lo and behold, New Holland Artisan Spirits was right there with Zeppelin Bend, a straight-malt whiskey.

Zeppelin Bend, as New Holland explains, “begins with a brewer’s mash coaxing sugars from malted barley into a liquid wash. This wash is twice distilled and aged in new American oak with a heavy char...” for a “... classic American-oak finish.” The whiskey has no age statement, though my guess is that it’s quite young.

I purchased bottle number 112 of 360, from barrel number 7.8. At Siciliano's, the 375ml bottle costs right around $35—the fifth is $65 even—so I’m not likely to make Zeppelin Bend a staple of my liquor cabinet—yet. Zeppelin Bend is well worth it for the novelty or for a Michigan-themed tasting, or simply to nurture the young industry.

Here’s what this whiskey novice thought:

Color: Pale copper, with hints of red almost like a summer sunset.

Nose: Sweet vanilla, faint pine and juniper, and a little bit of oak. There’s also an intimidating alcohol smell.

Palate: Thankfully, the strong alcohol smell dims into a subtle flavor of vanilla, syrup, and oak. Sharp.

Finish: Licorice and mint, and a maple syrup flavor that is light, sweet, and surprisingly refreshing.

Overall: A nice starting point for Michigan whiskey. Zeppelin Bend is a bit “boozy” but not nearly as violent as your nostrils tell you. Good for a rainy fall afternoon spent on a covered porch.

With age, we all learn to relax.

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