Patience has paid off at the Newcastle distillery.
By Will Grunewald Photographed by Mark Fleming
If you’re a distiller, bourbon is like a baby. You make it, you endure an interminable wait, and you cross fingers that you like the thing once it finally arrives. When Topher Mallory and Matt Page opened Split Rock Distilling, in 2016, they’d already had a batch of bourbon resting in oak barrels for two years. The very first bottling was . . . not bad. Since then, though, the bourbon has, as Mallory puts it, “grown up.” Those early batches were aged in the climate-controlled distillery, but a little adversity helps build a bourbon’s character, so barrels now reside in an uninsulated former garage. Split Rock’s straight bourbon whiskey, aged three years rather than two, has particularly matured, shedding some of the sharp edges of its younger self, mellowing into a belly-warming sipper with subtle notes of cinnamon and brown sugar and toasted grains. Later this year, Mallory and Page’s pride and joy takes another big step — a “bottled in bond” iteration, clocking in at 100 proof (up from 88) and barreled for four years. That’s a proper drinking age.
Among the changes at Split Rock, founders Topher Mallory and Matt Page have started keeping their straight bourbon whiskey in larger barrels. Small barrels accelerate the aging process but, with too much time, impart bitter notes.16 Osprey Point Rd., Newcastle. 207-563-2669.