Recently, Corsair Artisan Distillery has shown our city a lot of love. Head distiller Andrea Clodfelter came to town a few weeks ago to lead the lovely ladies of the Whiskey Women in a tasting of their whiskies (just one of their areas of expertise); and last week, I was lucky enough to have Will Atkinson in for the evening to help me lead a tasting of their gin products.
Now, a lot of distilleries decide they want to do everything—vodka, whiskey, gin, liqueurs, etc.—and end up with too much on their plate and a line of mediocre products. However, Corsair has slowly developed a spectacular portfolio over a period of time, and each product is fantastic. I first encountered Corsair when their flagship product, the Artisan gin, came to town a few years ago.
Owners Darek Bell and Andrew Webber founded Corsair as a company in 2008 but struggled with something very apparent in our own city today—laws against distilling alcohol in their home county. They left Nashville in search of a place where they could get their business off the ground and found themselves in the historic square of Bowling Green, Ky. They launched their distillery in 2009 and eventually expanded into Nashville after distilling was finally made legal. They found their Nashville home in the former Yazoo brewery, which also happened to be the old Marathon Motors Building.
To pick a favorite product out of their portfolio would be far too difficult—but I will break it down to my top two and tell you why each one is so special.
It is their flagship for a reason. Like premium brands such as Hendrick’s, they use a vapor basket to infuse their gin with botanicals. What does that mean, and why is it important? Many gins are produced by physically mixing in botanicals to the distillate and then gathering the vapors from this mixture, but Corsair uses a more tedious process that involves packing a vapor basket full of botanical goodies and allowing the vapors to infuse as they pass through.
This results in a much more harmonious flavor and isn’t quite as jagged as those who submerse their botanicals. Will told us that the vapor basket takes an average of an hour to pack and involves layering cucumbers with dried botanicals back and forth until the basket is full. Their gin is bright and beautiful, driven by citrus peel, florality and—of course—juniper spice. If you can snag a bottle, their barrel-aged gin is pretty spectacular, too. It’s aged in used spiced rum casks and is great for sipping!
Triple Smoke whiskey
I love it, and so does the Whisky Advocate. Earlier this year, Triple Smoke was hard to come by, thanks to a little award that the Whisky Advocate announces annually: Artisan Whiskey of the Year. What makes this whiskey exceptionally delicious is the layering and integration of its three malt components: cherry wood, beech wood and peat. These three malts marry perfectly, giving full, robust aromatics and a well-rounded palate. Lew Bryson of the Whisky Advocate sums it up oh so well in his review, stating, “Anyone can throw grains, smoke, hops or spices in a fermenter or a still. It takes skill, restraint and a good palate to make an award winner out of it.”
Honorable mention goes to their red absinthe and genever, two products that can make a fantastic cocktail when put together. Lucky for us, our local liquor stores are huge supporters of Corsair, and their products are easy to snatch up when they can keep them in stock.
What’s even better is that they are two hours down the road, and with a reservation, you can tour the distillery after 3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and starting at noon on Saturday and Sunday. If you can’t find a product locally, there are bottles available for purchase directly from the distillery.
Until next time, happy drinking!
Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.