Hooch

Arizona Single Malt Whiskey Makes Top 100 Spirits List

Whiskey Del Bac Classic is one of only 15 single malts to be named one of Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Spirits of 2021.
Whiskey Del Bac Classic is one of only 15 single malts to be named one of Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Spirits of 2021. Whiskey Del Bac
It's been quite a year for Whiskey Del Bac. The Tucson independent distillery celebrated its 10th anniversary in October and is now adding to its growing list of honors and awards. Whiskey Del Bac Classic is one of Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Spirits of 2021.

Whiskey Del Bac Classic is one of only 15 single malts, one of just three American single malts, and one of two spirits from Arizona to receive the honor.

"We started this dream over 10 years ago with the simple idea that we could make a world-class whiskey right here in Arizona," said Stephen Paul, who founded the company with his daughter Amanda. "This award validates that vision, and we couldn't be more proud."

Whiskey Del Bac Classic received an overall score of 93, placing it 13th in this year's ranking of single malts. Eight of the 12 single malts that scored higher are produced in Scotland. The only American single malt to score higher was Courage & Conviction Single Malt Whisky, which scored 96 overall and was ranked fourth on the list.

In the review, Wine Enthusiast spirits editor Kara Newman called Whiskey Del Bac a "complex and interesting sipper" with a sweet caramel and oak finish.

click to enlarge Whiskey Del Bac was founded in 2011 by father-and-daughter duo Amanda and Stephen Paul. - WHISKEY DEL BAC
Whiskey Del Bac was founded in 2011 by father-and-daughter duo Amanda and Stephen Paul.
Whiskey Del Bac

"Look for a topaz hue and rich, bold aromas of sarsaparilla, vanilla bean, and orange peel," Newman said. "The palate opens with sweet smoke, cocoa, and espresso, finishing with juicy orange and clove heat. Adding water unlocks more spice, yielding a dark gingerbread or spice cake character."

Paul says Whiskey Del Bac Classic is made from a 100 percent barley malt mashed, fermented, copper pot distilled, aged, and bottled on-site. The flavors create uniquely deep notes of dried fruit, spice, and toasted wood. It is modeled after Speyside Scotch, where they don't use much or any peat to dry the malt, similar to brands like Macallan or Glenlivet.

"The first whiskey was our classic," Paul said in October. "[It doesn't] involve any mesquite smoke."

The brand first came to life while Stephen was using mesquite wood for his custom furniture company. One evening, while drinking Scotch and barbecuing with mesquite scraps, Elaine Paul – Stephen's wife and Amanda's mother – proposed creating a single-malt whiskey using mesquite instead of peat. Traditionally, peat gives whiskey its smoky flavor, but mesquite wood smoke adds a distinctly southwestern American flavor.

"We are not just a Tucson brand, but an Arizona brand," Tom Jonovich, Whiskey Del Bac's Arizona sales manager, said at the brand's anniversary in October.

A fifth of Whiskey Del Bac Classic (750ml) retails for $56. Purchase Whiskey Del Bac online for shipping within Arizona or contact-free pick up directly from the Tucson distillery. Shipping is currently limited outside of Arizona. 
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