Behind the Barrel-Strength: An Interview with Wyoming Whiskey’s David DeFazio

The first legal distillery in Wyoming has launched its first barrel-strength bourbon.

Wyoming Whiskey opened nine years ago in Kerby, Wyoming. The distillery crafts whiskey from the state’s natural resources, including grains grown within one mile of the distillery, and water piped in from a mile-deep limestone aquifer.

In 2012, Wyoming Whiskey launched its initial line of small-batch bourbon. Next came its Single Barrel, followed recently by a Barrel Strength: 116 proof, in a 3/8″-thick oak box, for $199 per 750-ml. bottle.

Blink and you’ll miss it. Only 96 bottles were shipped for sale across the country, including in New York and Illinois. Wyoming Whiskey, however, plans for additional barrel-strength releases in future years.

We recently spoke with David DeFazio, the company’s co-founder and COO, about the process of producing barrel-strength bourbon.

SW: What led to this release?

DD: It was not by design by any means. When we started the whole thing in 2006, we were three attorneys who didn’t know anything about making whiskey. So we brought in Steve and started laying down as many barrels as we could at the highest quality.

This past spring, we identified two barrels as being exceptional. Sam Mead, our distiller, texted me that ‘this stuff is amazing’. He’s not one to exaggerate. I texted back that I was excited. He responded, ‘As in, you need to come over and try it, right away’. So I made the four-hour drive.

At barrel strength, which is 116-120 proof, this whiskey was smoother than any of our Single Barrel products. And those come from the top 1% of our barrels. This was not something we manufactured. We were not looking for it. These two barrels stood out for their quality, and we made a product because we had found them.

Three times a year we bring in Nancy Fraley, a nosing expert. She’s no nonsense. We had her sample those two barrels. She confirmed their quality and said that they were ready for release. She recommended that bottling sooner than later, in case the whiskey declined in quality.

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