Dark Horse Distillery is one of the many new, boutique distilleries cropping up around the nation to produce spirits for craft-minded consumers. Based out of Lenexa, KS, near Kansas City, they currently produce a vodka, white whiskey, bourbon and rye. These are all youngins, considering the distillery has only been in operation since 2010. The whiskeys - Dark Horse Reunion Rye and Reserve Bourbon - began aging in 2011.
Both were produced in the pride of the distillery, the 500-gallon copper hybrid still they call “Chester Copperpot.” The whiskeys are then aged in 15 gallon Missouri oak barrels for 18-20 months.
Despite using micro-barrels, at least it’s a longer aging time than most of these craft distilleries, who impatiently race (pardon the pun) to get product to market in order to start recouping their startup costs. That fact alone sparked my curiosity. I have begun dismissing most of these young craft whiskeys without even trying them, knowing these fillies will be hot, immature and cocky, lacking the warm subtle flavors of whiskeys given the proper aging time and barrel size to breathe. “Get away from me son, you’re bothering me! Come back when you’ve seen more of the world and grown some hair on your chest.”
But these are pretty good! I’m not going to wax poetic here, but I like them, and I see their potential. Though they are sippable enough to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, they are both terrific house cocktail whiskeys because of their strong flavors, and the slightly overproof power means these horses do kick on the back palate! Really decent values for a craft whiskey.
Reserve Bourbon (80% corn, 20% rye, 44.5% ABV): Ballsy name considering it’s less than two years old. Cereal aromas on the nose, smells a bit like Russian black bread, dried fruits, only ever so slightly acetone (that scent is much more pronounced in other young whiskeys.) Pleasant sweet corn, maple, clove and allspice flavors on the palate. A bit hot, but not overly so.
Reunion Rye (100% rye, 44.5% ABV): A solid, spicy rye. Warm, toasty, slightly buttery, with more of that grain cereal flavor and slight astringency.
A couple of cocktails to try with them:
Named thus because like any good block in Brooklyn, there’s a mix of native “residents” and those from all over.
1.5 oz Dark Horse Reunion Rye
1 oz Sorel liqueur
½ oz medium dry Madeira or Oloroso sherry
2 dashes Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters Black Mission Fig
cocktail cherries (optional)
Stir all ingredients except garnish in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with new ice (best if you have one big ass ice cube or sphere.) Garnish with cherries on a cocktail sword or end of a bamboo skewer.
The Italian Stallion
Adapted from a recipe in Whisky Magazine, with a bourbon of that name, how could I resist?
1.5 oz Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon
.5 oz Cocchi Americano Rosa
.5 oz Aperol
dash mole bitters
Stir all ingredients except twist in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Run twist around rim of glass and express oils into drink (pith side facing you), then arrange in glass as you see fit to make it pretty. That’s it? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.