The career trajectory of Al Laws, founder of Laws Whiskey House is becoming more and more common these days. Tired of the hustle-and-grind of their chosen path in life, they chose instead to be their own boss and, in the process, create something that brings them real joy. A native of Edmonton, Alberta and formerly employed in the financial side of the oil and gas industry, Al set his sights on making whiskey when he was transferred to Colorado, not far from Stranahan’s Distillery. It was there that he discovered the unique and creative characteristics of American craft whiskey distilling.
While travelling in Kentucky to gain all the knowledge he could, Al met Bill Friel, former master distiller at 1792 Barton, who became his mentor, allowing him to blend his new-found knowledge with years of Bill’s practical experience. With all of this under his belt, Al established Laws Whiskey House in Denver, Colorado.
Once known extensively for its craft brewing culture, Colorado now has more distilleries than either Kentucky or Texas. The climate, grain farms and excellent glacier fed water sources make it the ideal place to distill whiskey; something Laws has been doing since 2011.
The whiskey in my glass today is their San Luis Valley Straight Rye, named after the region in which the grain was grown. It’s 50% malted rye and 50% unmalted rye, was matured in #3 char new American oak barrels for at least three years and bottled at 47.5%.
Nose: A really nice balance between youthful spirit and cask with one not dominating over the other. A wiff of freshly cut grass and slightly floral. There’s a youthful grain note, but it’s not harsh. Lightly grilled orange, rich honey and cinnamon. From the cask, I get a bit of vanilla and this unexpected dark chocolate note lingering in the background. That’s something I would expect in an older rye, but here it is! Over time, I get a rich barley sugar note.
This is still a youthful rye. No doubt about that, but it’s not all youthful grainy notes. There’s this lovely richness that I wasn’t really expecting from such a young spirit. Time for a taste.
Palate: The entry is a light vanilla cream. There’s a slight orange tang as this progresses into the development. At this point, the young age of this whiskey starts to become apparent, but it’s mixed with this interesting light honey and a floral note like you would find in a gin. Again, unexpected. The grass on the nose transitions to freshly baled hay (that’s the horse owner in me talking) on the palate. There’s some nutmeg and allspice at the end. Throughout the development, there’s a bit of effervescence on the tongue.
Finish: On the short to medium side. The citrus from the entry emerges from underneath the notes from the development at first. This transitions to hot chocolate powder and then finally to dark chocolate.
With water added
This is almost nosing like a wheated Bourbon now. Strong honey and sponge toffee vibes. This is hiding the youthful grain notes somewhat. Over time, it’s like toasted rye bread with a scraping of honey. The citrus and floral character of the development moves forward into the entry. Still youthful and a bit floral on the development without that effervescent mouthfeel. The citrus carries all the way through the development, but the hot chocolate powder and dark chocolate remain.
Overall, this is a youthful whisky, but there are some truly intriguing and unexpected twists and turns that held my attention through the entire experience, both with and without water. As it moves back and forth between youth and a hint at something more mature, it offers a window into what I’m sure is a real stonker of a rye with a few more years in the cask.