Editor's Note: This week, Angela Hansberger joins The Atlanta Journal-Constitution team of contributing food and dining writers. Hansberger will cover the Atlanta bar scene, and focus on developments in the world of spirits and cocktails. A freelance writer based in Atlanta, Hansberger has written about food, drink and culture for a variety of national and local publications, including Creative Loafing, Audubon Magazine, Tales of the Cocktail, Simply Buckhead Magazine, 17 South, Eater and Table8.
The labels on ASW Distillery’s whiskey bottles depict a bit of the team’s entrepreneurial spirit. But none tells the tale quite like ASW's recent single malt release, Ameireaganach. In essence, it is the liquid resume of ASW head distiller Justin Manglitz, who is trying to push the craft aspect of distilling.
Manglitz’s whiskey reconnaissance traces back to a childhood in the country. His Paw Paw Buck was a whiskey maker who told the stories of their land in Haralson County, one of the main moonshine feeders to Atlanta. That piqued Manglitz's interest. He even had a name for the distillery he wanted to open: Outlaw Whiskey.
The whiskey Manglitz makes today wasn’t born smooth and balanced; it had humble beginnings. “I wouldn’t call it whiskey, maybe ‘something in a friend’s barn’,” he says. After graduating from UGA, he bought a brewshop. “It basically funded my learning and experimenting with making beer, wine, and whiskey.” When he realized he could make single malt whiskey, he began taking the craft seriously.
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A friend (and little sis of co-founder Jim Chasteen) introduced him to fellow UGA grads Chasteen and Charlie Thompson. This led to Manglitz loading up a box of his homemade whiskey to show his worth. The Bordeaux bottles were labeled and capped in red wax. He called it “Double & Twisted,” an old Georgia term for whiskey double distilled through copper coil, which came to signify highest quality. Chasteen and Thompson dug the whiskey - and took to Manglitz, too. Such was the birth of American Spirit Whiskey.
They located the perfect space, ordered Manglitz’s dream system, and in April 2016 they began distilling.
This past November, ASW released Manglitz’s original mashbill in a bottle. The only facet that differs from the current recipe is the change from beechwood-smoked malt to the inclusion of cherry smoked malt. Using 100 percent malted barley, he uses copper Scottish style double pot stills combined with the Appalachian innovation of grain-in distillation. The whiskey finishes in charred American white oak. Much like the transparency of craft breweries, malts are listed on the back of the label (2-row, Munich, cherry smoked, and chocolate malts).
The Scottish-Gaelic “ Ameireaganach” came about when Chasteen typed “American” into Google translate. The subname “Huddled Mashes” signifies the blending of Old and New World traditions—how Manglitz uses different malts of the same varietal to harness the flavors of the grain.
CMO Chadwick Ralston brought the concept to life with vintage style hand lettering from local artist Ryan Scott. A silver foil eagle crest is retro-fitted on a compass rose with two stalks of barley tightly grasped in its talons. Under “92 Proof” is a timberline photo facing East from Acadia National Park towards Scotland. It’s Manglitz’s resume in liquid form—a hands on, innovative approach to fermenting, distilling, and blending techniques, bringing the flavor of place to the bottle.
The team hinted at future releases from the Ameireaganch parent brand to look forward to: Tire Fire is 100 percent heavily peated Islay style and Maris Otter uses what Manglitz calls “the holy grail of homebrew malts.”
Manglitz describes a sip of the new release as “very smooth, medium-body, and complex, but not diffuse.” There are also fruity and confectionary characteristics to it, along with lingering caramel.
The Speyside-style whiskey is served in Atlanta at Leon’s Full Service, Local Three, Murphy’s and Sprig, and is available at most package stores and the distillery. It's probably in the file drawer at ASW too, under "Manglitz: resume."
199 Armour Dr. NE, Atlanta. 404-590-2279, aswdistillery.com.