I picked up Todd Leopold at LAX yesterday evening, as we were having dinner with some of my Pacific Edge colleagues, and within minutes he produced two samples from his magic bag of tricks: a 5 year old Bourbon and a 2 year old Three Chamber rye from his custom-built still. Within seconds of us having tasted each specimen, Todd was on the retreat, hands in the air, telling us: “Slow down guys! They’re not ready yet!” We were absolutely rabid, ready to rip and tear at Todd’s face in order to get our hands on them.
The good news is this: as early as this summer we should see the first release of the Leopold Bros Bourbon—creamy, sweetly-spiced, and complex on the finish with summer fruits and loads of vanilla. I can’t wait to get my bottle, as I firmly believe the final product will be the best Bourbon yet distilled outside the Kentucky heartland. Remember that Todd isn’t just purchasing any old grain for his mash bill, or maturing his barrels in a rented strip mall unit. The Leopold Bourbon recipe uses local Colorado grains, as well as their own floor-malted barley, distilled on a pot still and the whiskey is aged in a dunnage warehouse, exposing it to the extreme Denver elements. It’s not trying to be Kentucky Bourbon whatsoever, which is exactly why it has something very unique to say.
But let’s talk about the Three Chamber Still rye. Oh Jesus…
I’d advise you to go back here and check out the whole article from my visit to Leopold for better details, but in essence EVERYONE is freaking out about Todd’s custom-built Three Chamber Still, based on designs Todd found from the late 1800s. When I say everyone, I mean everyone—all the major Kentucky players have made appointments to visit the Leopold distillery to get a look at this thing because they know it’s going to have people on their knees, begging for more of what it can create. Fortunately for Todd, even Vendome—the guys who built the still for him—don’t understand how it works, but the short version is this: mash is loaded into three chambers, each on top of one another, and as the liquid vaporizes it passes through the mash as it moves up through the still. Think of gin vapor moving through a botanical basket, but instead it's actual whiskey vapor moving the same flavorful whiskey mash from which it was originally boiled. It ends up extracting two things en masse: flavor and oil.
I say this with all honesty: I have never in my career smelled a rye whiskey as potent, pure, and overwhelmingly intoxicating as the two year sample of Three Chamber rye whiskey that Todd gave to me yesterday. It is absolutely unreal in its aroma; it’s a complete class of its own. Then you taste it and the oils completely smother your senses, leaving your taste buds saturated in oatmeal cookie dough and sweet rye character. I’ve gone back three or four times with the sample I have and every time I’m more excited than previously. IT’S FUCKING INSANE. It will without-a-doubt, no-buts-about-it, change the American whiskey industry upon its release and every other distillery will be playing catch-up. People will be lining up around the block to get a bottle. Video bloggers will be having live orgasms on YouTube while reviewing it.
Now the bad news: Todd doesn’t plan on releasing one drop of Three Chamber rye until it hits at least five or six years of age, meaning mark down the year 2023 on your calendar.
Settle in. We’ve still got a number of years to wait, and Todd is in no hurry.