Charbay’s Twisted New Whiskies

By Nick Fauchald Posted April 10, 2008

Charbay is famous for producing the first American vodkas flavored with actual fruit. But this Northern California distillery has also made what are probably the first American whiskeys made with actual beer. Let me explain: While whiskey is distilled from a fermented, beerlike mash made up of malted grain and water, you really wouldn’t drink the stuff. But Charbay’s Marko Karakasevic and his father, Miles, have created two whiskeys made from bottle-ready beer. The first is the second release of their Double Barrel series ($325/750ml), a malty, pilsner-based whiskey Marko and Miles made in 1999 and aged in oak barrels.

The second whiskey is even wackier. After a 25-year “apprenticeship” with his father, Marko has finally earned the right for Dad to pass on the honor of being a “Master Distiller,” making him the 13th generation of his family’s spirits-makers. His thesis: A crystal clear whiskey made from India Pale Ale. For legal reasons, Marko has to age the spirit in oak in order to call it “whiskey,” so he places the distillate is neutral oak barrels for a total of…one day. “It’s the lightest whiskey ever,” Marko said this afternoon when he visited our offices. He plans to call his potable thesis “Doubled and Twisted” after the whiskey’s double-distillation and the way the liquid twists on itself as it exits the still. “It’s spicy and herbaceous—the beer’s hop and malt flavors are right there,” Marko said. “It looks like moonshine, but this is way past moonshine.”

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