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Taste Test: Why Wolves Whiskey Is Bold Enough to Push You Out of Your Bourbon Comfort Zone

The whiskey, created by a group of hypebeasts, is confounding—but in a good way.

Wolves Whiskey affixing label Photo: courtesy Leah Moriyama

The success of Wolves Whiskey is sort of confounding. On the one hand, it has this ultra-cool sneaker fashion pedigree (James Bond of Undefeated and Jon Buscemi of Buscemi, Truff and Oliver Peoples are behind the brand), and the distiller is legit (Marko Karakasevic of California’s Charbay Distillery). On the other hand, the whiskey, now in its third iteration with the Spring Run release, is boldly and assertively a hop-flavored spirit with a distinctly skunky edge to the palate. In other words, sweet, grainy bourbon, or even caramel-infused American single malt, this is not. 

The breakdown of the blend in the current bottle is as follows, and should give you a better idea of what to expect: whiskey distilled from stout beer aged in French oak for ten years, whiskey distilled from pilsner aged in new American oak for six years, rye whiskey (no age given), and nine-year-old single malt aged in used French oak. The first two elements really define the palate, as whiskey distilled from finished beer, as these are, tends to dominate the profile. The nose starts out on the mild side with a bit of honey, followed immediately on the palate by big notes of hops, licorice, cherry, vanilla, nutmeg, agave syrup and hot cinnamon. The denouement of the sip is a lingering finish that is pleasantly warm.

These sheepskin leather-wrapped bottles are extremely limited and available for purchase online only, as has been the case with each release of Wolves. Just 1,110 were made available for sale on the website when the whiskey launched in May. You’ll likely see these on the secondary market for well above the SRP of $200, and for curious whiskey drinkers with the time and means to procure a bottle, it’s well worth it. Here’s the thing—this may not be your everyday sipper, and the palate will very well read as unfamiliar or even challenging. But this doesn’t mean Wolves is a bad whiskey; on the contrary, it’s quite good, and obvious attention has been paid to distillation, aging and the proportions of the blend.

Of course, first and foremost whiskey should be enjoyable on an immediate, visceral level, because at its core it’s a fleeting luxury meant to satisfy you in the moment. And there are some people who might find that is the case with Wolves. But I would argue that a whiskey like this can also be enjoyed as a challenge, or at least as a step outside your typical comfort zone of flavor and familiarity, particularly for those seasoned drinkers who are craving something altogether different than most of what they’ve had a chance to enjoy. Whether it’s an exercise in whiskey exploration, or the peculiarly pleasurable flavors that come from a hop-forward whiskey blend like this, you will not regret giving this bottle a try. And get ready for something altogether different for the next release (date TBD), which is cryptically called “The Rye Project” and will be a collaboration with Kentucky’s Willett Family Estate.

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Score: 88

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for 
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet 
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market 
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable 
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this 

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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