The beaver sac spirit is an idea that came from a funny place. As we build recipes, each one has to be reviewed by the TTB (previously ATF). This is common practice and generally bases the acceptance of these formulas on FDA certified ingredients. So if all ingredients land on the FDA generally recognized as safe list, the formula should pass. The generally recognized as safe list (GRAS) is actually pretty small, especially when you are in the exploratory phase of spirits. There are a few really odd ingredients that make it on there and castoreum is one of them. Another example is red coloring ‘carmine’ from the cochineal beetle.
The information on this old-timey ‘natural flavoring’ sparked some intrigue and further discovery of the castoreum’s use as a spirit ingredient. The sac excretion exhibits bright and fruitful qualities, as well as rich leathery notes, along with a creamy vanilla aroma. These notes are also very common among barrel-aged spirits, so a natural progression took place. From that structure came the addition of woodsy aroma: Birch oil, wild ginger, and fir needles. They are a great way to link the oak barrel components (vanilla, caramel, spice) to the Beaver’s contribution.
In the search for castoreum, Tamworth Distilling found Anton. Anton is a beaver trapper and often gets called in by the state to remove beavers. Beavers are also extremely territorial, making relocation of beavers 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 comingle 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
Available now at Tamworth Distilling!