Wolves Whiskey hit the scene in 2019 to both great fanfare and mystery, launched by footwear moguls Jon Buscemi and James Bond (yes, I know), and distilled by Charbay veteran and Friend of Drinkhacker Marko Karakasevic in Northern California. While the first batches of Wolves — distilled from stout (sounds familiar), pilsner, and rye; just 898 bottles total — vanished in a heartbeat, the brand is back with a much broader release, Wolves Signature Blend.
Wolves Signature is made from the same whiskey components, but in clearly different proportions. Specifically it is predominantly made from MGP rye, distilled in Indiana and aged in northern California. Added to that are two distillates from a beer base: whiskey distilled from craft stout beer, aged in used French oak for 9 years; and a whiskey distilled from a craft California pale ale, aged in used French oak for 7 years. Both of these are without a doubt drawn from Charbay’s old whiskey stocks, which are made from Bear Republic beers. We’ve reviewed them all over the years. This edition is limited to about 12,000 bottles — so, a lot more to go around.
With all that as preface, let’s give it a whirl.
If you’ve ever had Charbay’s beer-distilled whiskeys (and I realize most people probably haven’t), you know what you’re getting into here, to an extent. The catch is that the blending of two beer-based whiskeys and the incorporation of rye in the mix has a bit of a magical, transformative effect.
Charbay’s “beerskeys” can be overwhelming in intensity, particularly its ultra-hoppy pale ale-based product (which is distilled from Racer 5). With Wolves, things instead find a particular groove that mercifully keeps the hops in check, creating a lightly sunny and sweet but modestly herbal character that comes across as a best of all worlds. Bear in mind it’s largely MGP rye — but a little bit of hops goes a long way, mixing up the program. Elements of dill and gunpowder meld with the grassy pungency of hops and a shovelful of turned earth to create an evocative and wholly unique aroma that you won’t find in any other whiskey you’re familiar with. The palate falls right into line: sweet cane syrup, then a huge punch of grassy, spicy rye, ending with a buttery finish that hints at baked apples and cardamom. The fade-out is the best part of the experience.
To say there’s a lot going on in this whiskey is a severe understatement, as Wolves Signature feels endless in its complexity. I think it’s possible that Karakasevic may have more experience with distilling from beer than any other distiller in the world. What I didn’t realize was that he had an even better idea about what he was doing when it came to blending the stuff.
A- / $140 / wolveswhiskeyca.com