Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of whiskey? Tell them about triticale whiskey! Here's what you need to know. There are several grains that are used to make whiskey, including corn, wheat, rye, and barley. Wheat whiskeys tend to be soft and smooth and rye whiskeys tend to be bold and spicy.
But what if there was some a grain that was a middle ground between the soft wheat and the spicy rye? That's triticale! This grain was first created in Scotland in the 1800's and, a few years ago, Dry Fly Distilling of Spokane, WA, used it to make the world's first straight triticale whiskey.
Bourbon & Barns caught up with Dry Fly founder Don Poffenroth to talk about triticale, whiskey and lots of fun stuff (see below). You can learn more about Dry Fly Distilling at www.dryflydistilling.com. (Oh, and they just celebrated their 10th anniversary, so tell them Happy Birthday on Twitter at @dryflydistiller).
Bourbon & Barns: Congratulations on your 10-year anniversary! Can you tell us how Dry Fly Distilling got its start and how it has grown over the past 10 years?
Don Poffenroth, Founder/President of Dry Fly Distilling: Dry Fly started as a vision of two corporate burnouts, Don Poffenroth and Kent Fleischmann. The initial vision started on a river somewhere in Montana, and grew into what it is today. We have grown from a single state producer to someone who sells product in many states and countries outside the US. We are still very small, five employees, and we still live the real farm to bottle philosophy daily.
B&B: I understand your distillery was the first in Washington since Prohibition. Were there any regulatory obstacles or other hurdles you had to overcome in order to establish your distillery?
DP: In Washington, a legal distillery had not existed since prohibition, so we had to write our own legislation in order to exist. We found it easy to take a case of liquor to Olympia and get things done!
B&B: You make a variety of products at your distillery, but the most interesting may be your Straight Triticale Whiskey. What is triticale? What inspired you to make a triticale whiskey?
DP: In Washington, Rye is a noxious weed in almost every county as it can destroy a wheat crop. Triticale had been grown here in small amounts and allows us to play the Rye game from a grain standpoint, without all the issues. We made the first 100% Triticale whiskey ever in the world. We continue that tradition today with our regular Triticale now being over four years old.
B&B: How does your triticale whiskey compare to more traditional wheat whiskeys and rye whiskeys?
DP: Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and Rye. It was grafted from the two grains in Scotland in the 1800’s. Its name comes from the Gaelic words for wheat and rye. We use one seed variety, grown on one piece of land by Wisota Farms. The end result is a perfect blend of rye-like spiciness and wheat sweetness and softness.
B&B: Do you think the appeal of triticale will continue to grow in the whiskey industry?
DP: I think Triticale will continue to grow as people discover how great a whiskey it makes. The key is the seed, grower, and process. Not all Triticale is the same. Ninety-nine different seed varieties exist in the US alone. We only found one that works.
B&B: Can you tell our readers about some of your other products? The Port Finish Wheat Whiskey sounds especially interesting.
DP: Barrel-finishing and the collaborative projects is another thing that makes Dry Fly unique. Our finish program is well-developed. We often rest in finishing barrels over two years, achieving depth that can’t be found in shorter periods. We are extending the port program to very select wine barrels, beer barrels that came from us, aged beers, and now come back, coffee bean barrels, and other interesting combinations.
B&B: From the grains to the pot stills, your distillery is very focused on the details and craftsmanship of the distilling process. Can you tell us about your approach to distilling?
DP: Our approach is simple: Farm to bottle excellence. We work with our farmers weekly. We plant, harvest, and live with the grains. We then bring them into the distillery and do our best to get out of the way and allow the grain to showcase itself. We cut in a conservative manner, use great aquifer water, and barrel in great wood. The rest is patience. Kind of like fly-fishing. Take your time, and you are often rewarded well.