Bourbon is a tradition-ridden industry, in which mash bills are solemnly handed down from one generation to the next, but Dry Fly master distiller and co-owner Kent Fleischmann has little patience for the past.
"We have a modern image and a modern flavor," says Fleischmann, who this weekend oversaw a Seattle sell-out of his bourbon, the first legally manufactured in Washington state since Prohibition. The 240 bottles that Dry Fly shipped to the Interbay liquor store were snapped up in 45 minutes.
Fleischmann predicts the newly released spirit will receive a similar reception to the distillery's gin, which is a notorious non-award winner. "Our gin does not win awards because it's judged by true gin aficionados," Fleischmann explains.
Dry Fly's gin isn't sufficiently juniper-forward to satisfy traditionalists, he says. "We do unique things," Fleischmann stresses.
Dry Fly's straight bourbon is made from corn grown by Hutterite farmers, barley, and wheat. "It can be a crapshoot," Fleischmann says. "You wait for three years and hope to hell it tastes good."
The bourbon has notes of honeysuckle and marmalade on the nose, and a staggered mouthfeel that's far removed from the caramel-tinged smoothness associated with big Kentucky bourbons.
"It's a little bit sassy, but we wanted it sassy," Fleischmann says.
Perhaps in recognition of the spirit's harshness, Fleischmann wasn't drinking it straight while he prepared for a release gala at the Mayflower Hotel last Friday: He called the Dry Fly beverage in his glass a "Moscow Mule," a classic vodka cocktail that's spawned a series of spinoffs made with different liquors.
Adding lime and ginger to Dry Fly bourbon is a sensible choice, since the spirit's vanilla character calls for a tart counterbalance. After leaving my tasting session with Fleischmann, I was struck by a sudden craving for Sour Patch Kids.
Fleischmann says the distillery plans to keep producing bourbon, although he thinks the spirit could be rendered irrelevant by a new, experimental whiskey he isn't yet ready to discuss.
"We're making a whiskey from a grain no one has made whiskey from before," he says. "We find it to be unbelievably great. It's going to change everything."