Whiskey is (basically) made from beer, so why not make it from really good beer?
For its long-awaited R5 whiskey, California’s Charbay (best known for its high-end flavored vodkas) took Bear Republic’s beloved Racer 5 IPA and put it through a still. This is not an inexpensive task: 10 gallons of beer distill down to 1 gallon of whiskey. Double-distilled in copper pot stills, the resulting whiskey is being released in two versions: “Clear,” an unaged version, and “Aged,” which spends 22 months in French oak barrels.
We got our hands on both varieties; both are bottled at 99 proof. Thoughts follow.
Charbay R5 Clear Hop-Flavored Whiskey Lot 610C – Lots of tropical fruit on the nose and body. That funky white dog character is there, but it’s overpowered by fruit and sweetness. Creamy and seductive, it’s surprisingly easy-drinking and enjoyable for a white whiskey, with plenty of character to overpower any of the funk left behind from the white doggedness. Imagine an IPA while you’re drinking it and you’ll understand everything. A- / $52
Charbay R5 Aged Hop-Flavored Whiskey Lot 610A – Aged 22 months, making this a very young whiskey — though not as young as the Clear, of course. Surprisingly similar to the white version, this light brown spirit would be indistinguishable on the nose if not for a slight chocolate note that you can catch. The body is bolder and richer. That chocolate comes along here again, along with some of the tropical fruit character of the Clear version. That said, I was hoping for more depth of flavor. The wood tones down the fruitiness a lot, and the finish is more drying than fruity. It’s strange to find myself saying this, but I prefer the white version. B+ / $75