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Home distillers everywhere should aspire to the level of quality achieved by the folks at DownSlope Distillers. These guys really know their stuff and pride themselves on making a great tasting product using traditional, old-world technology and methodologies. They turn their noses up at techniques used by large scale commercial distillers (and even some craft distiller start-ups) including the addition of coloring, sweeteners, and other additives in order to "fake" the results that a good old fashioned copper still, a solid understanding of mashing, fermenting, and distillation fundamentals, and bit of time will produce.
I was lucky enough to attend a distilling class at DownSlope late in 2012. By "lucky enough," I mean that I had enough "fun money" laying around to be able to afford the $400 fee for the weekend-long workshop. The knowledge I gained on the topic of distilling made it well worth the expense. They move at a pace even novice distillers will be able to keep up with, but are dedicated masters of their craft and are able to answer any question you throw at them. In addition to taking home as much new info on distilling as my brain could handle, I decided to pick up a bottle of some of their best on the way out the door. I grabbed a $37 bottle of Double Diamond.
I admire professional reviewers, and hardcore whiskey fans alike, for their ability to detect and dissect nuances of flavors such as vanilla, agave, anise, tobacco, cherry, vanilla, fruit, pepper, nutmeg, leather, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon....all while assigning number ratings to things such as the nose, mouth, throat, finish, etc. I know good whiskey when I taste it, but I definitely do not have the ability to spout off an accurate list of subtle flavors (let alone a grocery list of the ingredients) and a scaled rating of nose, etc. That said, my amateur opinion is that Double Diamond is some damn good stuff. Period.
DownSlope is going for a high end Irish Whiskey with this product. Best we can tell, the lion's share of the raw material in the Double Diamond mash is malted barley, and it's rounded out with rye. It is aged for two years in medium toast oak barrels (actually used wine barrels). Their head distiller pays very close attention to the whiskey as it ages. They rotate the barrels and regularly aerate the whiskey, which they insist produces a smoother final product.
Double Diamond won 3 silver medals in 2011 and we can see why; it's a very nice whiskey. It's smooth, subtly sweet, provides the perfect amount of flavor, and offers just a tiny bit of spiciness. Our recommendation: go out and get a bottle for yourself. You won't regret it. Also, consider attending one of Downslope's distillation classes.