Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey Bourbon Crusaders Bottle #68 of 258 White Wax

CHARBAY HOP FLAVORED WHISKEY BOURBON CRUSADERS BOTTLE #68 OF 258 WHITE WAX

SPIRIT: Whiskey

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 74/147

AGE: 5 years

Charbay is a distillery steeped in tradition, but at the same time it has always done things a little differently. Its current master distiller, Marko Karakasevic, represents the 13th generation of his family to hold the position, going back through his father’s roots in Serbia. The distillery is located in Ukiah, a town in northern California at the very top reaches of the state’s wine regions – Charbay got its start making wine, and only received its distiller’s license in 1983.

For almost two decades, the distillery produced mainly brandy, drawing on its connection to the wine world. But in 1999 Marko Karakasevic decided to branch out into whiskey, with a twist. Whiskey is, essentially, distilled beer, the main difference being the addition of hops. In fact some people call the fermented liquid that goes into the still “distiller’s beer.” Karakasevic decided to take things a step further and distill actual beer, in this case a pilsner, which he has since unleashed in semi-regular, numbered releases. After distillation, the spirit goes into French oak casks, once more drawing on the region’s winemaking traditions. The result is something unique and truly special, a whiskey rolling with citrus and tropical notes, the result of all those hops. 

Karakesevic has subsequently used other types of beer, including Racer 5 IPA and Big Bear Black Stout, both from Bear Republic, his favorite brewery. While the category remains niche, other distilleries, like Long Island Spirits of New York, have also distilled commercial beers. Still, curious whiskey fans seek out his whiskey, especially his numbered releases, and on very rare occasions, Karakesevic will work with them to concoct a unique private barrel. 

In December 2015 the Bourbon Crusaders, a philanthropic organization, picked a barrel of Charbay whiskey that combined distillates from two different IPAs and a stout. Each was aged separately in glass for two years, then blended and barrelled for five years, along with malt and more stout distillate.

Charbay’s whiskeys aren’t for everyone. But anyone can enjoy the history, craftsmanship and sense of experimentation that went into making them.

Producer: Charbay

Misc.: Because hops were added to the beer, the federal government requires the label to read hop-flavored whiskey. But that introduced its own confusion; some people might assume incorrectly that hop flavoring was added to the whiskey, a la the cinnamon liqueur added to  Jim Beam’s Kentucky Fire.

Collectors’ tips: This bottle is Number 68 out of 258, and sealed with white wax. 

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