fly fishing and whiskey
It seems as though the Federal Government has always felt a need to protect the American people from themselves. Be that good or bad, it is what it is and one of the broadest examples of this in the history of our nation was Prohibition.
On December 22, 1917 Congress submitted the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited ‘the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.’ And so at midnight on January 16, 1920 began the Prohibition Era, which would last thirteen years. It seems a cruel irony that when America was in the midst of The Great Depression (1929-1939) and folks needed a stiff drink they couldn’t get one legally. Now I’m not condoning excessive drinking, but when the chips are down a person ought to be able to drown their sorrows if they so choose. Thankfully the 21st Amendment to the Constitution put an end to Prohibition in 1933.
The effects of Prohibition, however, lingered for a very long time and in fact still exist today. Many states created rules requiring the separation of the production, distribution and retail tiers to limit the potential for anti-competitive practices and to discourage the over-consumption of alcohol. Washington (the state) at least for the time being, controls the sale of liquor. That may be ending in November depending on the outcome of a statewide vote. In the 80 or so years that followed the end of Prohibition, not a single (legal) distillery operated in Washington. Then a law was passed that made it a little easier for alcohol makers to craft their wares, and in 2007 Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling became the first licensed distillery to operate in Washington state since Prohibition.
“A good cast is like a good whiskey–it’s smooth and hits the spot.”
The above quote is by an anonymous fly fishing guide, featured on the home page of Dryflydistilling.com
When I first heard about Dry Fly I was intrigued. I’ve never been a huge connoisseur of hard booze, preferring instead beer – and cheap beer at that. However, as I’ve become increasingly more refined over the years I have developed a palate for certain breeds of whiskey. I’m definitely not a Scotch man. Don’t care so much for Irish whiskey. The only bourbon I’ve had is Jim Beam and I’m sure it’s not fair to judge bourbon based on that experience alone. When it comes to whiskey what I prefer are the smooth Canadian blends. I didn’t even know at the time what type of whiskey Dry Fly was offering – I just wanted to try it: Nice logo. Unique bottle. Cool rainbow trout skin label. You know, the whole fly fishing thing. Yep, I bought into the image hook, line and split shot.
I’d purchased Dry Fly vodka a couple times and it was good – as good as vodka can be, I suppose (to me vodka is just a key ingredient in a Bloody Mary). But their whiskey always evaded me. Whenever I received an email update (yes, I signed up to be on the Dry Fly email list) about a new batch being released, it was never in the cards for me to go find it. Being small batch stuff, it’s not available in just any liquor store and certainly not in the liquor store in my home town, or anywhere conveniently close for that matter. Then late last Spring I received an email notice that batch 4.0 had just been released and would be available in a select number of liquor stores. I checked the list: 3 stores in Spokane, one store in Vancouver, one in Everett, one in Kennewick and 2 in Seattle. So naturally I called my brother Hal, who lives in Seattle, and asked if either stores #46 or #86 were near to him. Turns out both stores were relatively convenient, and so he set about to score me a bottle of Dry Fly Whiskey. As it turns out it wasn’t as easy as all that.
On a particular Thursday in June Hal visited one store, but they hadn’t received their shipment yet and expected it on Saturday. Strike one. Hal said he’d try to go back on Saturday, which he did, but was then told it wouldn’t be available until Monday at the earliest. Strike two. On Tuesday he called the liquor store and they still had not yet received the shipment. The next day he called again at 3pm and as luck would have it the whiskey had arrived! He hopped on the SLUT (South Lake Union Transit) and was finally able to procure a bottle. The store clerk indicated that their allotment would likely be sold out by 5 pm.
To borrow Hal’s own words, “Wow, I earned this one.”
That he did, and I vowed to not open the bottle until we had an appropriate opportunity to enjoy it together. We recently went fishing together and I fully intended to take the bottle along for a little streamside sampling, but in the process of trying to not forget any gear needed for actual fishing (like a reel) I forgot the whiskey. Fortunately the next opportunity presented itself in just a matter of a few days. And so finally, after years of waiting, and a Herculean effort to acquire a bottle, I unwrapped the red foil from the neck of the bottle, removed the cork stopper and poured a couple of glasses, neat. I’ll admit that up to this point I still didn’t know what sort of whiskey was about to be sipped. At that point I hopped in the internet to find out. Their website requires that you must be 21 in order to enter (I wasn’t carded, however).
It’s hard to find a description of their whiskey on dryflydistilling.com, but if you click on the image of the bottles you’ll come to find that their whiskey is actually described as “Single Malt Whiskey”. The label calls it “Washington Wheat Whiskey”. Before the amber liquid ever touched my lips, my sinuses were hit with fairly strong aroma that actually caused me to flinch a bit. The actual taste that followed was remarkably smooth by comparison: not as smooth as the Canadian blended whiskey I prefer, but given that it isn’t a blend I shouldn’t have been surprised. Suffice it to say we rather enjoyed it, and I could get used to drinking it more often. However, I plan to save it for special occasions – at $50 a bottle I want it to last a good long time. So if you come to my house and ask for a whiskey, you won’t see me pulling out the Dry Fly – it’s my private reserve and I’m not sharing. Except with Hal.
Since I am an unaccomplished whiskey aficionado this review should be regarded like Tequila and taken with a grain of salt. As far as reviews go, you might want to jump over to Whiskey Creek Fly Fishing for another take on Dry Fly Whiskey.