White whiskey seems to be a growing trend in craft-bars. Quite simply, white whiskey is moonshine: unaged whiskey taken straight from the still to the bottle. It’s very hard to find at bars and liquor stores in Omaha. From what I know the Side Door is the only place that has any, and it came in just two days ago.
It’s interesting and controversial stuff. Some brilliant marketer figured out a way to sell whiskey without all that troublesome barrel-aging and still sell it at premium prices. (Most) consumers aren’t idiots and realize this, of course. So some distilleries are marketing it as the sample whiskey that the distillers test before it goes into the casks, kind of like a peek into the distillery process. The white whiskey that Side Door has is the Heaven Hill Try Box New Make Rye. It’s a sample of what will eventually become Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse Rye whiskey.
And the taste is interesting too. To get a handle on it, I sampled it straight then had it in a White Manhattan. It’s powerful stuff (125 proof). The first whiff nearly blew out my sinuses. It’s also very flavorful. I could really taste what distillers mean by “corn mash”. That being said, it wasn’t exactly unpleasant, just unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s not a casual, refreshing spirit, by any means, but neither was it too stiff and opinionated to enjoy.
The White Manhattan helped calm the whiskey down a lot. The Side Door bartender made it with sweet vermouth and orange bitters, to complement and contain the pulpy taste of the whiskey. It’s not suddenly my favorite drink (still the Aviation), but in an intellectual sense, I loved it.
It is pretty fascinating to taste whiskey at a point in the production process normally never seen or tasted. And historically, this stuff is essentially what Americans have been cooking up in barns for centuries. So much of the American spirit is embodied by the clandestine backyard home-distiller. This Time article talks about that much better than I can.
Overall, white whiskey is definitely worth a try. I know for a fact that it’s at Side Door, which is probably your best bet. It’s available online of course, I just don’t know if this experience is worth forking over $30 + shipping.