The Spirit Guide Society podcast adds an exciting dimension to the world of liquor tasting. Every Tuesday and Friday, master brander, Spirit Guide, and Shakespearian-trained actor/host, Pedro Shanahan, sits down with representatives from renowned distilleries to learn about the brand and sample their unique offerings.
The Spirit Guide Society’s host educates and entertains bartenders, liquor aficionados and industry professionals. Shanahan has a whimsical flair for entertainment. Using thought-provoking commentary, both novices and old-hands can pick up interesting gems of wisdom along the way.
Recently, The Spirit Guide Society bore witness to a very impressive lineup; the Westward American Single Malt, the Westward Oregon Stout Cask, and the long-awaited Westward American Two Malt, the latter distilled by Shanahan himself, taking seven years to reach maturation.
The hour-long episode saw Shanahan and Westward Master Distiller/Founder Christian Krogstad regaling listeners with their creative vision for the Two Malt. The two also touched upon the process of malting and how distillers masterfully accomplish different flavors.
“At high temperatures, water, sugars, and proteins interact in very curious ways, and we get a new class of chemicals called melanoidins,” explained Krogstad. “These are what give those nutty, biscuity flavors.”
Krogstad drew an interesting parallel so that the audience could better understand where distillers come from. “For example,” he says, “when you toast bread, that’s a melanoidin giving you that flavor. Similarly, the flavor in whiskey – melanoidins. The higher the temperature and the longer the process, the more complex the flavor.”
“We call that coffee malt,” Shanahan chimed in. “When you try a coffee malt or chocolate malt at your local bar, there’s no coffee or chocolate in those malted barleys, just different roast levels.”
Where did the process of malting draw its origins from? Krogstad has the answer. “Malt is the European tradition for how to turn grain into beer, whereas, in the Asian tradition with sake or shōchū, they use Aspergillus mold to break down the starch into sugars.”
Eager to spill on his distinct vision for the Two Malt whiskey, The Spirit Guide Society’s host revealed, “We sampled some different single barrel bourbons and explored flavor profiles. We were trying to find an ingredient that was quintessential to that area of Northwest Oregon. And I, being a rye whiskey lover, was indulged by Christian who said ‘I think I can get us some malted rye.’”
Krogstad explained that the sprout is very different from the seed. By malting that rye seed, it creates a whole new world of flavor.
He elaborated, “We decided to use malted rye and not the typical green rye. When you malt something, you essentially trick the rye into sprouting. You get a different product because you’re not adding anything but water.”
The distiller added, “As the plant breaks dormancy it starts generating all these new flavor compounds.”
With that, the host opened the floor to the audience. “So tell us,” Shanahan gestured. “What does American Two Malt whiskey from Westward taste like to you? Everyone’s taste is different – no wrong answers.”
“Delicious,” answered one guest.
“Dark chocolate-y,” said another.
Krogstad added, “You don’t get as much of the caramel overtones or the oak flavor. I’m getting a ton of nectarine. It’s a lot more floral.”
“Yeah, it’s really malty,” said Shanahan. “Not as spicy in the same way that most rye whiskeys are.”
“This barrel is around 111-proof that’s 55.5%,” the host presented to an astonished crowd. Proof is twice the alcohol content by volume. So a whiskey with 50% alcohol is regarded as 100-proof.
He continued, “See, this is something we did. We sat around a table and kept adding drop after drop of water, trying to get it down to the right proof. We wanted something that was strong enough to push that flavor profile forward but balanced so that it wouldn’t set your nose on fire.”
The Spirit Guide Society podcast exposes audiences to liquors from around the world using historical context, describing distinctive flavor profiles, and uncovering the distiller’s creative insights behind their masterpieces.
The podcast records on Tuesdays and Fridays in front of a live audience at any one of the hospitality group’s 25 bars across California, and brings some of the world’s most admired whiskey, rum, mezcal and tequila flights to the palettes of liquor connoisseurs.
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