A sip of ASW Distillery’s new whiskey, Fiddler Soloist, comes with a shot of significant Atlanta history.
National regulations on modern whiskey classification were laid down in 1909, before the Prohibition era began in 1920. What is known as “straight” bourbon follows a standard set of rules.
However, ASW Chief Marketing Officer Chad Ralston discovered that Georgia enacted its own Prohibition Act, banning the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages, in 1907, two years before the federal whiskey rules were drafted. ASW maintains this makes Soloist the first straight bourbon ever distilled in Atlanta.
“Because the term ‘straight whiskey’ was not defined until 1909, and Prohibition began here in 1907, there was no opportunity for anyone to make a straight whiskey,” ASW head distiller Justin Manglitz said at a release party last weekend.
In 1965, Congress declared bourbon “America’s native spirit.” That act, along with the 1909 regulations, defines the rules that bourbon distillers live by today.
Many believe bourbon only comes from Kentucky, but bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S.
Fiddler Soloist is distilled in a traditional pot still. Pot-stilled whiskies, especially bourbons, are rare in America. Most distillers use a column still for computer-automated consistency. “Pot distillation lends itself to strong body and mouthfeel that you can’t get in factory bourbon,” Manglitz said.
The grain mixture used to make whiskey is called the mash bill, and, in the case of bourbon, it must be made of at least 51 percent corn. Soloist is 55 percent hand-selected yellow corn. “I can use close to the minimum amount of corn and then choose much more flavorful grains to make it more complex,” Manglitz said.
He tried about seven iterations of his recipe before he settled on the final product: 10% Munich malt lends a little bit of biscuit flavor, while 13% wheat malt contributes soft sweetness. The remaining mix is 10% rye malt, 4% chocolate malt and 7% beechwood smoked malt. “I tried pretty much every smoked malt that was on the market before settling on beech,” he said.
Bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new charred oak barrels. Manglitz and his team rested the whiskey “well beyond the two-year minimum” in six 30-gallon American white oak casks, first at the distillery and then at its nonclimate-controlled rick house.
Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol), stored at less than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof. Soloist is 100 proof.
Finally, bourbon cannot have any added coloring or flavoring; only water is used for dilution purposes, to lower the proof. Fiddler Soloist is smooth, with cherry and biscuit on the nose, and a palate of tea, toffee and a hint of citrus.
“My goal was to make a bourbon I really love,” Manglitz said at the release party, before heading to the stage with his fiddle. “With the complexity, the body, the lingering finish, and distillate presence, that’s really the crucial aspect for me — it’s equal parts distillate and cask.”
He anticipates another bottling next spring.
ASW Fiddler Soloist straight bourbon whiskey. $44.99 per 750-milliliter bottle. Available throughout Atlanta.
ASW Distillery. 199 Armour Drive, Atlanta. 404-590-2279, aswdistillery.com.
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