Appalachian Gap: Snowfall

It’s winter time in New England.  That means cold. That means waking up in the morning and losing feeling in your extremities before the hot water hits the shower head.  That means scraping stubborn frost off your windshield into line blow lines that your windshield wipers won’t even deal with, while your warm breathe fogs the inside of the windshield and the morning glare blinds you.  If there is one thing it means a lot of, that’s snowfall.  Except thus far this winter…we seem to have gotten off with just a touch of the stuff, enough to paralyze anything south of the Poconos for a week, but not enough for your average New Englander.  I’ve got a little secret, over Christmas, I was given a little extra snowfall, as it were, and of a kind I much prefer…


No, I did not get cocaine for Christmas, no feliz navidad Medellin over here, officer.  Instead I got my snowfall as it tends to come, sweep east from the moisture of the Great Lakes, dusting over the Green Mountains, and landing swift and pure in my lap.  I got my Snowfall from Appalachian Gap—Appalachian Gap Distillery that is.


Appalachian Gap is an outfit out of Middlebury, Vermont, a town which itself is a miniature mecca of drinking delights.  Otter Creek Brewing Company, Drop-In Brewing Company, Vermont Hard Cider (of Woodchuck fame,) Lincoln Peak Vineyard, and hell I just realized the coffee I drink every morning from Vermont Coffee Company comes from Middlebury.  Into this (presumably drunken) scene arose Appalachian Gap, whose spirits are as unique as the town itself.  They have staple spirits like Mythic Gin, which in this case isn’t an adjective, and Mosquito Fleet Rum, the even have Kaffevän Coffee Liquorbut they also have some far out drinks too, like a spirit distilled from corn, barley, and coffee, Kaffekask.  More inventive yet is their very Vermont take on tequila, Papilio, which is distilled from blue agave and…maple syrup?  Yes, maple syrup.  Next up, fermented and distilled Ben and Jerry’s liqueur. But none of those beverages are the subject of my article, because, if I’m honest, I haven’t had any of them.  Tonight, the forecast is Snowfall.


Snowfall, in my experience is an experience devoid of most of the senses.  Its sensation is numbness, its image is a blank yet lustrous white, its smell is an almost startling absence of smell, crisp, cold, pure.  Snowfall, however, is a stunning sensation.  The nose of snowfall is a wonderful and unique expression that does not draw easy comparison to anything within my frame of reference.  It’s light, vaporous, and has a full sweetness which is I can only think to describe as “pure.”  None of this aroma would give the slightest hint that this is 108 proof, which is stunning given that I am basically huffing alcohol fumes.  That unique characteristic of sweetness carries on into the first sip, opening up marvelously to display a pastiche of flavors, with a hint of warm cornbread opening into an almost taffy like note of round chewy sweetness with light fruity esters expressing just the suggestion of a banana note.  The finish, is like the glow of a woodstove, with a gentle warmth which engulfs the palate, and just a touch of rye spice dances on the tongue and down the throat, lessening with each breathe.


I’ll be honest, I tend not to drink too many white whiskies, because I find them frankly unsatisfying, and they’re just a step (or a filtration) too close to being vodka.  The same cannot be said of this fascinating expression.  I have to imagine that the mash bill of this spirit, 45% barley, 30% corn, and 25% rye, has a lot to do with how lovely it tastes.  That is not a normal mash-bill, and to my knowledge leaves this spirit, and its aged counter-part free of any legal classification beyond whiskey or delicious.  Yes, you heard me right my friends, there is an aged counterpart to Snowfall, and while I have not yet had it, I know that my next trip across the Connecticut River will find me on a search for at least one Ridgeline.

Review: Maker’s Mark White Whiskey

It was a hot night.  Sweaty, buggy, hellish.  So I started a fire.  Now this was not some small little fire for cozy comfort; this was a towering inferno, spewing forth plumes of fragrant, possibly toxic, smoke.  To make the most of this sweltering night we needed some tunes, check—Mr. Charlie and I can tackle this—and some relief.  Cold, sweet, liquid relief.  A random array of beer begins our inebriation, allowing me to forget the burns on my feet from stepping on red hot coals.  As these things tend to go, our ragged band decided to push the limits of our consciousness further, and this is where the actual review comes in.  Maker’s White Whiskey is Maker’s Mark’s raw product, only available at the distillery; again, Mr. Charlie took care of this.  It seems white whiskey has been a bit of a buzz product in the market lately—distilleries realized they could sell un-aged whiskey for more than they sell the real stuff and save some 5 years.  I haven’t gone much for this hype, but this promised to be a bit different than your average white whiskey, which I see basically as slightly sweeter vodka.  I don’t much care for vodka.  Anyways, my thinking was that Maker’s Mark has always been a sweet bourbon, seemingly designed for a kindly welcoming into the bourbon drinking community.  Basically it’s good for mixing and good for sipping on the rocks.  There’s clearly a massive market for that, because Maker’s is incredibly popular, even at a higher price point than some bourbons that are far more complex.  Maker’s White gives an interesting perspective on what makes the aged product so well liked.  From the first sniff you get what makes Maker’s so sweet—in its raw form Maker’s smells closer to tequila than whiskey.  The taste is rather similar, very sweet, though very smooth.  Unfortunately the people at Maker’s were smart enough not to release this at full fire breathing, off the still strength.  I want the stuff the way it goes into the barrel, not diluted like it would be when it comes off in half a decade (had it ever met a barrel).  Then again, given how I felt when I woke up, perhaps I should have diluted it even further.  Maker’s white treated me and my weary band well over the course of the night, and it felt right to be drinking by a late night fire with its misty taste of moonshine thing going on.  Memory gets hazy with ne too many whiskies, two too many beers, and one too many mornings and a million miles behind—there’s nothing like waking up in a 90 degree room smelling like a bonfire.  In sum, Maker’s White is an experience.  It’s not about the flavor, because basically this is a weak moonshine.  What you get from this liquor is an understanding of how the Maker’s mash bill of corn and wheat rather than corn and rye makes a pretty radically different whiskey.   You also learn a little more love for the barrel (as if I didn’t already love bourbon barrels) because that’s what makes this sweet and smooth liquor into something I actually want to drink.