Weekly Whiskey- The Emerald 1865 Ransom Straight American Whiskey

Last year I had the pleasure of attending Cuts Camp at Ransom Distillery in Sheridan, Oregon. Creating a batch of Old Tom was exciting to say the least, but tasting my way through the entire Ransom portfolio was mind-blowing! You can taste for yourself at their tasting room in Mcminnville, Oregon.

Sitting pretty at 86 proof, Ransom has truly outdone themselves with this throwback mid-19th century Irish style whiskey. The mash bill of this exquisitely handcrafted spirit is using 67% two row malted barley, 7% unmalted barley, 15% rye, and 12% oats. 

Irish whiskey often incorporates unmalted barley, as it was historically a way for distillers to avoid taxes on malted barley products. This also creates a unique flavor profile, which is a little less sweet than single malt spirits.

Oats are not often used in mash for beer or whiskey because they create a viscous gummy mess that is difficult to handle. Some anti-coagulants can be used to prevent clumping, but many whiskey recipes avoid using it altogether. Why? Well, the more surface area of the grains are exposed, the faster and more evenly the yeast can break down the sugars in the grain.

Since Ransom is doing small batch, by hand, they are able to replicate this recipe from 1865 which has a small percentage of oats. Oats, like corn, cannot be used alone as it does not contain the correct enzymes necessary for making the brew. 

From the Ransom Spirits Website:

"Thanks to colorful folklore passed down through the generations, we know that the Irish whiskey of today little resembles its 19th century predecessors. Trouble was, there was none left of the traditional whiskey to taste in our quest to recreate the long lost gems of the Emerald Isle. Fortune gave us two good turns; a British excise agent who recorded an Irish mash bill in 1865, and our friend David Wondrich, who found said recipe poring over the microfiche annals of history and passed it along to us. With this mash bill as our guide, we set out to create our own interpretation of a traditional Irish whiskey. To call our version modern might be a stretch— We grow a percentage of the barley organically on our farm, our grains are milled, mashed and fermented in small batches at our distillery and farm in the emerald hills of Sheridan, Oregon, and we distill according to our senses in our handmade, direct-­‐fired alembic pot still. The Emerald matures in a mix of French and American oak for three years, and is hand bottled, capsuled, and labeled.  The result is a highly aromatic spirit with the weight, richness, and complexity of its forbearers."

Ransom Distillery Cuts Camp

This experience is a two part equation: Ransom Spirits and Ransom Wines. Both of which are notably delicious and if you haven't put any down your gullet yet, you are missing out. Ransom distillery is located in Sheridan, Oregon. Also located in Sheridan is a Federal Prison and Church of Scientology's Delphian School. That's a lot going on for 2 square miles of city limits.

Back to the booze- I first heard about Ransom because of their Old Tom Gin. Not many Gins are made in the style, and I think this one is causing a revival.

What makes Old Tom Gin special?

1. It can be aged in barrels (or not)
2. It can be made from malted grain, or neutral spirit
3. It can have sugar added (or not)
4. Must contain Juniper (like all gins)

What do you mean, or not? Well, the facts are muddled since there are no clear rules for the category. There are no age statements on bottles, nor is there a legal requirement to age gin to be called "Old Tom". It is a rather forgiving labeling compared to other spirits. Some Old Tom Gins are distilled from honey base, or stevia is added... but I digress.

Back to Cuts Camp!

Cuts Camp was an incredible opportunity for industry professionals to attend an overnight outing at Ransom Distillery. We spent the day milling grain, making wash, and cleaning and transferring product to different tanks. After a hard day of work we enjoyed an amazing meal among the wine barrels and continued imbibing on Ransom's delights. We even had the pleasure to taste some Italian olive oil while we dined with its maker.

Day 2 we awoke, nestled between a barley field and rows of Albariño grapes. We watched the Old Tom flow from the stills and experienced the minute changes from the phenol plasticky heads to the sweet lemony and herbaceous hearts. 

Bridging that gap between product and producer is what it's all about.

Special Thanks to Tad Seestedt, Art Tierce, and the entire Ransom Spirits team for making this event so educational, and fun! Thanks to Oregon Bartenders Guild for providing the opportunity to attend. I can't wait until the next Cuts Camp! For the latest from OBG check out their Facebook

According to the Ransom Spirits Website:

"Ransom Spirits was started by Tad Seestedt in 1997 with a small life savings and a fistful of credit cards. The name was chosen to represent the debt incurred to start the business - Tad was paying his own ransom to realize his dream. Initially, the distillery made small amounts of grappa, eau de vie and brandy. Ransom began the production of a number of small-batch fine wines in 1999. In 2007, we took up the craft of grain-based spirits, adding gin, whiskey and vodka to the lineup. In 2010, we combined our crafts of winemaking and distilling to create our first Dry Vermouth."