Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.
I try to be pretty open minded about booze, and generally speaking I’ll try anything once — but over the years I’ve learned to steer clear of flavored whiskey. Regular ol’ bourbon is awesome by itself, and frilly additives typically make it worse, not better. Nine times out of ten, it’s horrible, but every so often I come across a rare exception that reminds me to keep an open mind
Jeremiah Weed’s Sarsaparilla Whiskey is one such exception. Made by the refreshingly oddball distillers at Jeremiah Weed, it’s one of about three flavored whiskies in existence that I’d say are legitimately worth putting in your mouth. I happened across it by accident a couple months ago, and as far as flavored whiskies go, it’s fantastic.
The sarsaparilla flavor isn’t some cheap gimmick or hastily applied afterthought — the booze gets that signature root beer-like flavor from an infusion of real smilax root — the same stuff that was used to make root beer soda back before artificial flavorings were invented. This gives it a very authentic and balanced flavor profile. It’s definitely on the sweet side, but the whiskey’s malt and barrel aging flavors aren’t completely overpowered by the sarsaparilla.
At 70 proof, the best way to drink this stuff is definitely on the rocks. It mixes well with soda, but the resulting sweetness of such a concoction will undoubtedly be too much for most people. Poured over a few ice cubes is definitely the way to go here, as a little bit of dilution will spread out the flavors a bit, revealing all the vanilla, butterscotch, and oaky flavors tucked inside.
I’ve also found that this dram also works well as a sort of “trojan horse” for the misguided whiskey-averse people in your life. Jeremiah Weed totally got one of my vodka-only housemates to come around, and now he’s a full-fledged brown booze enthusiast that regularly geeks out on bourbon with me.
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