Exploring the Unusual: Our Beaver Sac Spirit
The development of spirit recipes involves a thorough review process by the TTB. Compliance with FDA certified ingredients is crucial for formula acceptance. However, the FDA’s generally recognized as safe list (GRAS) is relatively small, especially when venturing into the realm of spirits. Surprisingly, a few peculiar ingredients make it onto the list, including castoreum and carmine from the cochineal beetle.
Curiosity about these old-timey “natural flavorings” led to the discovery of castoreum’s potential as a spirit ingredient. The sac excretion of beavers reveals bright and fruitful qualities, along with rich leathery notes and a creamy vanilla aroma. These characteristics are reminiscent of those found in barrel-aged spirits, prompting a natural progression. To enhance the connection to oak barrel components (vanilla, caramel, spice), woodsy aromas like birch oil, wild ginger, and fir needles were added.
Ethically Sourcing Our Beaver Castoreum
In the search for castoreum, Tamworth Distilling found Anton, a beaver trapper and often gets called in by the state to remove beavers. Beavers are also extremely territorial, making their relocation extremely difficult. So Anton, like all good trappers, uses every part of the animal. The fur is sold, the meat is eaten, and the castor sacs are used as lures for future trapping bait. This source of New Hampshire beavers makes for a responsible market practice.
The most interesting part of this unusual spirit is how familiar it is. While the idea of beaver sac may conjure anticipation of odd flavors and sharp aromas, the reality is castoreum acts to fortify good whiskey flavors. The vanilla nose is underscored with the addition of spice from the birch oil and wild ginger. Wild ginger, or Canadian Snakeroot, has a woody spice much like common ginger, but offers floral (almost perfumey) qualities. These piquancy notes circle around to raspberry, which is also added to co-mingle with the castor sac’s natural fruitiness.
Rich and fuller bodied than expected from a 2-year bourbon, this whiskey has a bolstered mouthfeel from the ingredients. Dry, smoky spice with fleeting hints of fresh-cracked boughs and mint that open up to reveal rustic-sweet sensations of wet hay, vanilla, wood sugar, and saddle leather interspersed by waves of red fruit. This raspberry aroma fits nicely with the fruit notes of a sweet bourbon. Warmth and spice finish out the first sip, where oils act to lengthen the finish. The finish structure all coming from those deeper qualities of birch oil, oak, ginger, and leather.
Ingredients: aged bourbon, beaver castor, raspberry, Canadian snakeroot, fir needles, birch bark (tar oil & regular oil), maple syrup
Spirit Type: Flavored Whiskey
Base: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 44% abv (88 proof)
Bottle Size: 200ml