Todd Leopold’s chamber still rye whiskey is without a doubt the most concentrated American rye whiskey I’ve ever tasted, but the still itself is the big secret that everyone's dying to know more about, from whiskey historians like David Wondrich and Mike Veach, to whiskey super nerds who obsess over production details and spec sheets. A girthy piece of equipment, it was once used in a number of American distilleries around the turn of the 20th century and into the mid-1900s. Few people, however, seem to understand exactly how or why it was used.
Fortunately for whiskey fans, Todd is a dedicated researcher and reader of old documents. He spends his free time digging out the recorded minutes from forgotten community farmer meetings, or various malting essays written by brewers in the 1920s. Even Vendome, the heralded American still company that made the equipment for him, doesn't really understand how the chamber still works—and that's exactly how Todd likes it. It’s his baby, his reenactment, and he thinks it’s going to set Leopold Bros apart from the general market in a major way.
Working from a design he located in an old diagram of Hiram Walker's former plant in Peoria, Illinois back in 1910, Todd helped to create this three column monster that—despite its look—distills in batches rather than continuously. I don't want to give away too many of Todd's secrets, but let’s just say that there is mash loaded into each level and as the liquid vaporizes it passes through the mash as it moves up through the chamber. Think of gin vapor moving through a botanical basket, but instead its actual whiskey vapor moving the same flavorful whiskey mash from which it was originally boiled.
Having tasted it at numerous stages over the last four years, I’ve watched its evolution and grown downright giddy about its release as we’ve inched closer to this date. First off, you’ve never smelled a whiskey like this before. As I’m typing this now, I’m sticking my nose into a half empty bottle and getting completely bowled over by potent waves of graham cracker, root beer, toasted oak, and cookie dough. Secondly, you’ve never tasted an American whiskey like this before: sweet cereal grains, an oily texture, booming flavors of sarsaparilla, ginger, baking spices, and plenty of vanilla.
As amazing as Todd’s chamber still rye is, it’s expensive for a 5+ year old bottled in bond whiskey. However, the amount of risk, time, money, energy, and care that went into making this whiskey, recreating a style not seen in America since before Prohibition, was not minuscule, and the initial production is limited to just 5,000+ bottles for the entire world.
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