Some whiskey distillers buy bourbon and then age it in their own barrels to save money. Many traditional whiskey makers and drinkers don’t think these spirits are authentic enough, and criticize the distillers who put out these products for their priority to making money, fast.
Tad Seestedt, the owner and distiller at Ransom Spirits in Sheridan, Oregon, is the first to admit that his priority with his un-aged Whippersnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey is money. He’s more concerned, though, about his customers’ wallets than his own. “We’re buying white dog corn bourbon out of Kentucky before we redistill and age it. I didn’t want to release a young whiskey that I thought would be prohibitively expensive for the consumer,” he says.
Seestedt started his career in fermentation as a winemaker, and seems to have always been a businessman at heart. He even named his distillery after the funds it took to get it opened. “I had always wanted to start my own business and I thought that Ransom was an appropriate name in that it’s definition is buying your freedom or independence with money. The money I had to borrow from the bank to start the business was my Ransom,” he says.
That was in 1997. Seestedt began making grappa, eau d’vie and brandy at his distillery and he added gin and whiskey to his product lineup ten years later. In 2008, he crafted the Whippersnapper Whiskey not only for cost, but also for stylistic reasons. Seestedt wanted to create a spirit that wasn’t technically an un-aged whiskey and that had enough barrel time to make it recognizable as a whiskey, but not enough time to let the wood dominate the grain. “The aromatics of grains in white dog are really interesting, and give a broad spectrum of flavors.”
This non-traditional whiskey gave Seestedt a hard time when he tried to name it. Because it has more than 160 proof, it could only be labeled “blended” or “spirit” whiskey. He liked the sound of spirit better, and there you have the Whippersnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey.
Next for the distillery will be the WhipperSnapper’s older, wiser, aged brother, The Gezer whiskey, that will debut in about 10 years.
“Sometimes I can’t help myself from making fun of things,” says Seestedt about the names of his products. We sure like them, no matter what the label says.