Rye whiskey can be a lovely thing, but it can also be a challenge. “Peppery” is the common adjective lobbed at the grain, which suffered a century of neglect before American distillers once again started to treat it with respect.
Studio Distilling is one such producer, and they open today in Midway St. Paul for bottle sales of their rye malt whiskey. “Nothing’s too crazy, we’re not doing anything too radical,” says Shelly Dailey, managing partner, showing us the standard setup—grains from Rahr, Breiss, and Weyermann; fermenting tanks; a shiny still; a clutch of barrels.
They are doing something different, however. Theirs is the first rye malt whiskey among Minnesota’s distillers. (Many whiskies use rye as an unmalted grain; a few malt whiskeys have been made from barley.) The result is a malt-heavy rye that’s more genial “instead of kicking you in the teeth, like ‘Here’s rye!’” Dailey says.
Studio Distilling uses two rye malts, one of which is roasted, for their whiskey, with a smoked barley malt and flaked corn also included in the mashbill. The result is a definite softness. You’ll not forget it’s a rye, though: that grainy spice forms the beginning of the sip, but then morphs into flavors of char, chocolate, almond, and marzipan.
“I’m a big proponent that when you taste anything, the flavor shouldn’t be the same at the end as it was at the beginning,” says distiller and managing partner Brad Rolfs. “If it is, there’s no reason to go back for a second sip. That’s why I don’t like 100 percent ryes. I appreciate them, but we very consciously decided not to go that route.”
Their rye tastes complete after aging for eight months in small barrels, but the age statement will no doubt rise as Studio shifts production to larger barrels. Their next product will be a bourbon, with other aged products likely to follow. Don’t expect a vodka or gin from Studio—they admit they’re not built to compete there.
“There’s a lot of consumer choice in clear spirits,” says Rolfs. “We wanted to age our spirits, show people what we’re about, and lead with our best foot. Not, ‘hey try this for a while and come back in a year or two.’”
Studio is tucked along the light-industrial-meets-new-condo corridor behind University Avenue and Raymond Avenue, currently home to Urban Growler and Bang Brewing, which are just blocks away. They’ll work on constructing a cocktail room over the winter, blowing out the current entrance and pushing back to a glass wall that runs up against their still. Expect to have a cocktail on site sometime in 2019.
What: Studio Distilling
Distiller: Brad Rolfs
Where: 2380 Wycliff St., No. 140, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114
Grand Opening: Thursday, July 26, 4:30pm–7pm. 375-milliliter bottles of Rye Malt Whiskey and other merch for sale, whiskey sampling available, and Foxy Falafel food truck on site.
Bottle Sale Hours: (Beginning July 27) Thurs.–Fri., 4pm–7pm; Sat., noon–5pm
Products: Rye Malt Whiskey (94 proof) available now. Bourbon and other spirits are forthcoming. Cocktail service planned for 2019.