To understand Whipper Snapper Oregon Whiskey, you first have to meet Clarisse. Go on, say hello. She’s a hand-hammered French cognac still, and she has produced many a fine spirit since her arrival in Oregon.
Since 1997, Ransom Spirits founder Tad Seestedt has used the still to produce fine handmade gins, vodka, whiskey and grappa. But whether due to Clarisse’s unique shape, her ability to seduce botanical aromatics from the wash, the ghost of cognacs past, or perhaps just the underestimated power of suggestion, I can’t seem to shake a faint, sweet, buttery impression of cognac from my first sip of Whipper Snapper. It just generally reminds me less of bourbon than I had anticipated, even of sweeter bourbons like Basil Hayden’s or Angel’s Envy.
The wash itself may also help to explain this phenomenon. Whipper Snapper is 79% Kentucky white dog corn whiskey and 21% malted barley whiskey. The white dog is sourced from another distillery, then run through Ransom’s still, while the barley spirit is grown and distilled by Ransom. One reason for the white dog is that Seestedt “didn’t want to release a young whiskey that [he] thought would be prohibitively expensive”; it’s something certain whiskey enthusiasts might thumb their noses at, but I think it’s led to something unique. While Whipper Snapper has the musky funk of bourbon, it also carries the floral fruitiness of an Irish whiskey one can only get from malted barley.
Whipper Snapper gets its name from being a young, impertinent whiskey. The Ransom guys age it for between six months and two years in a mixture of used and unused Kentucky bourbon barrels, as well used Pinot Noir barrels. The detail of aging barley spirit in wine barrels is just the cherry on the cake, adding a facet of Scotch whisky to the mix. Speaking of cherries and cakes, looking for those flavors is a rewarding endeavor.
It’s not cognac, bourbon, white dog, poteen, Irish, Scotch, or anything else under the sun. Whipper Snapper is its own spirit entirely, and you can’t tell it what to do (but if you’re looking for a classification, that’d be Oregon Spirit Whiskey). Traditionalists need not apply, but at roughly $30, whiskey fans looking for an upstart young whiskey would be fools not to.
And if you like it, be on the lookout for its older, wiser brother — Ransom’s Gezer whiskey. Though it won’t be released for another 10 years, so for now, Whipper Snapper suits me just fine.
– 42% Alcohol by Volume