It’s no secret that whiskey holds an iconic place in the heart of American libations culture. But have you ever wondered what actually goes into the process of creating that silky smooth, perfectly balanced sip? According to the team behind Ferndale-based craft whiskey label Doc Swinson’s, it’s (almost) all in the blend— and in the barrel.
“People in the United States rarely focus on the blending aspect, which is actually what the rest of the world focuses on,” explains the label’s Master Blender, Jesse Parker. “That’s where all the magic really happens in Scotch Whiskey, Irish Whiskey, Cognacs, Armagnac, you name it.”
Doc Swinson’s is not a distiller, but an NDP (non-distiller producer), which means they work with distillers to produce the base product, investing the bulk of their creative focus on what happens to the liquor after it’s been distilled. This labor-intensive post-distillation process includes personally tasting each and every barrel that enters their facility, selecting specific flavor profiles, deciding how they’re blended, and what kind of barrel they’re finished in.
Unlike most American whiskies, Doc’s borrows most of its blending and barreling techniques from old-world traditions developed over centuries in Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Portugal. Aside from the blend, the choice of barrel (including type of wood and the barrel’s previous contents) also bears a strong influence on the quality and flavor profile of the final product. The result is an elevated, nuanced taste that stands out from your average whiskey due to its distinct combination of classic American flavor and refined, European finesse.
“Most of what we do for our whiskeys comes from regions that are actually more similar to here. So we get to tie in these unique aspects that are common in Europe, where spirits are primarily blended and produced,” says Parker.
But old-world artistry is just one way the label is shaking up expectations in the libation scene. The team is on a constant mission to innovate, inventing new blends and shifting the conventional whiskey paradigm as they go. Aside from their expansive core line of black label spirits, the team also prides themselves on their experimental, limited-release white label series, fittingly dubbed the “exploratory cask line.”
“I would always recommend to anyone who’s seeing our product out in the wild that if there’s a white label one that looks exciting, pick it up because you might not get the opportunity again,” says the brand’s Operations Director, Keith Seidel.
Aside from blending the most distinctive bottles they can come up with, the brand also takes pride in incorporating the taste of the North Sound into its products.
“Where we are has a unique impact on the whiskey. If you’re a whiskey nerd or someone who appreciates whiskey, tasting something that comes from our biome, I think is cool. We also have a line released in oak trees that grow only in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s very local and I think it makes a fantastic product that you really can’t find anywhere else,” shares Seidel.
Purchase your own bottles (and some for holiday gifts) at retailers across the North Sound (a full map available on the brand’s website). docswhiskey.com