The craft whiskey that Whisky Advocate magazine named the nation's best this year goes for up to $150 a shot. Here's where to get it for $35.
A surprise in the booze world this month, Whisky Advocate magazine declared that the Best Craft Whiskey released in 2016 came from our home state — the Bainbridge Yama American Single Grain Barley Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask, made by Bainbridge Organic Distillers.
Calling it the “Craft Whiskey of the Year,” the tasting panel said the local release is “a richly layered yet very pretty whiskey, displaying enticing aromas of lemon chiffon cake and baking spice, and a palate that balances sweet marshmallow, toasted almond, and marzipan with a bright beam of tart, mouthwatering citrus — clementine, lemon, and yuzu.”
“I was stunned,” distiller and owner Keith Barnes said during a phone interview from his distillery on Bainbridge Island. “Just to show up in a listing with some of the best whiskeys in the world, that is always a treat. But to be recognized…it’s gratifying — all the work that went into it.”
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Your best bet is to take a ferry to the bar Bainbridge Public House, where a shot costs $35 on the distillery’s home turf.
The distillery also sells the acclaimed Yama for $495 a bottle (90 proof) at its tasting room on the island. That’s the best price you’ll find. (The limited release was priced that high before the honor.) Outside of the island, you can bet retailers will jack up the price by up to 50 percent after that prestigious award.
The whiskey is made from barley grown in the Skagit Valley and was aged in oak imported from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Barnes said the distillery could only make 340 bottles of the Yama because it was so hard to get Mizunara oak trees in Japan. The distillery only had enough wood to make a few 10- and 15-gallon barrels.
The name Yama is an homage to the namesake village on Bainbridge, where many Japanese immigrants lived back in 1883. Barnes came up with the idea to age his malt whiskey in that rare Japanese oak as a way to honor the history of the Japanese who lived on Bainbridge. He’s donating part of the proceeds of the limited release to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, which is documenting the story of the Japanese community who lived on the Yama site.