The company, founded in 2017, is an independent bottler and the house brand of Distillers Way LLC. As an independent bottler, they source barrels of whiskey to bottle under their own label, often blending them to create a signature style, finishing them in a wide variety of wood types, and cutting to proof, though, here, the whiskey tends to be released close to cask proof.
Doc Swinson’s calls Ferndale, WA home. This tiny town is located near Vancouver, BC about 100 miles north of Seattle along the bay. Here, a team of four runs the entire operation: Jesse Parker, the Head Spirits Master; Steve Main, the Sales Director; Chris Cearns, the Chief Financial Officer; and Keith Seidel, the Director of Operations.
Parker is young with no formal training, but he cut his teeth at a small, family-owned distillery where he began racking up primo awards for his creations. He’s gone on to win several dozen more for his blends for Doc Swinson’s, including winning best in class for finished bourbon at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
As an independent bottler, the brand sources all of their whiskies—nothing is distilled in house. The current line up all hails from Midwest Grain Products Distillery in Lawrenceburg, IN, aka MGP. Sourcing from this large distillery in Indiana can be a prickly subject for some, but the team at Doc Swinson’s makes no attempts to hide and certainly excels with their selections (see the aforementioned awards).
The lineup reminds me of some releases from Buzzard’s Roost I tasted last year, another producer that releases finished whiskies from rye-heavy MGP mash bills in a similar price range, though with a radically different char for the finishing barrels. Doc Swinson’s lineup tends not show the lushness, pillowy sweetness, and aromatic intensity I often associate with MGP bourbons. Instead they manage an unusual twist of reserved yet complex aromatics. Perhaps it’s just that salty Vancouver bay air.
This whiskey being tasted today, the Doc Swinson’s Garryana Exploratory Cask Straight Bourbon, is one of several from the “Exploratory Cask” series. The house base, a blend of two different rye-heavy bourbons distilled by MGP, was finished in 350L Garryana oak casks for two and a half months.
Garryana oak is a white oak native to the Pacific Northwest along the coastal area. Working with local wood is of growing interest in the wine trade, too, as producers explore alternative techniques and focus on sustainability by sourcing locally. It’s exciting to see its use in whiskey.
In the glass, the local oak finishing is described by the company as showcasing “the richness of the Pacific Northwest terroir offering deep, dark, and complex notes ranging from molasses, toffee, clove, BBQ plums, and a subtle wood smoke.” If you’re looking to explore some PNW terroir, Doc Swinson’s is distributed in 26 states and Canada.
About Doc Swinson’s
The Doc Swinson’s Collection began with an extremely small cache of Bourbon Barrels that were just too good to pass up. It has since grown into a unique and on occasion extremely rare, collection of American whiskies. The proof is in the palate. Each whiskey brought in is personally tasted by the four of us at Doc Swinson’s. If it’s good we will find a place for it in either the Flagship, Exploratory or Rare Release series.
When it comes to finishing techniques, we look to the old-world traditions that have stood the test of time, from Scottish whiskey blenders to the timeless sherry pyramids of the Spanish solera. However, sometimes we stumble upon a whiskey that needs no perfecting and we simply bottle at cask strength.
Whatever whiskey comes through these doors, our small group of tastemakers at Doc’s work hard to create flavor profiles that hold our expectations of great whiskey to a higher standard; and that starts by always letting the whiskey shine.
For more information please visit https://www.docswhiskey.com/about