Spirit Of The Week: Wolves Whiskey ‘Malted Barley Series: Lot One’ American Single Malt

California’s coolest whiskey maestros unveil their first American Single Malt.

(Wolves Whiskey)

We’ll admit it: When we first heard of Wolves Whiskey our Dubious Meters started bouncing off the rev limiter, suspecting the initial hype from this new spirits label was born strictly from the superb marketing instincts of its founders.

After all James Bond and Jon Buscemi are icons in the streetwear game, raising their brands (Undefeated for Bond, Gourmet, Greats, Truff and Buscemi for Buscemi) to the forefront of a brutally competitive field by working #hype like a Stradivarius. 

But just like their apparel and sneaker brands were built on quality and curation, so too is their whiskey. Even at the first sip of Wolves it was instantly apparent that we were dealing with something truly special. Major credit goes to their auteur whiskey maker Marko Karakasevic, a 13th-generation Croatian Master Distiller playing his trade with a tiny Alembic still imported from Cognac, France in 1983. 

With this 600-gallon copper pot still Karakasevic distilled craft beer from California’s Bear Republic Brewery, opting to use fine finished beer (both stout and pilsner) instead of the undrinkable mash beer that most distillers use. 

The innovation’s outcome was a deeply rich whiskey flowing with a bouquet of hops, dark cacao and toasted almond flavors, boasting a bodacious body with a viscous mouthfeel that became the staple of Wolves’ signature blend.

In the end the profile was closer to a clean single malt scotch (think Balvenie or Macallan) than your traditional bourbon. The results spoke for themselves as Wolves’ first releases sold out ever quicker—First Run sold out in a week, Spring Run vanished in a single day and when Winter Run Batch 2 hit the internet every bottle was claimed in under 15 minutes.

Now Wolves now enters its next major phase with its Malted Barley Series banner. Since 2011 Karakasevic has been secretly crafting a series of American Single Malts (ASM) in small 8-to-12 barrel lots, with the Croatian distiller apparently sleeping in four hour shifts so he could personally make each cut, selecting only “the heart of hearts” for double distillation.

And for the first ASM release the founders—along with CEO Jeremy Joseph—selected the 2015 barrels for what will be their first batch to see the light of day: “Lot One.”

(Wolves Whiskey)

Only 2,250 bottles of their first-ever American Single Malt will be sold, in addition to a 12th barrel—a heavy toast cask with Hungarian heads—handpicked for a Wolves Single Barrel release. Bottled at 62.5% ABV (125-proof), the Single Barrel expression will be limited to only 228 bottles offered privately to members on their Allocation List.

“When Marko asked if we were interested in buying the barrels I was on the plane the next day up to Ukiah. This is back in 2021. I had my eye on this library since the first time I walked through the distillery,” Wolves CEO Jeremy Joseph tells Maxim. 

“The story about this whiskey and how they went about creating it is remarkable, and I really wanted to taste what’s $600 Demptos oak would do to a single malt coming off the brandy still,” continues Joseph.

“We made it through 17 different barrels of the 144-barrel lot before deciding to buy all of them. I was looking to see if I could find a bad barrel or lot that I didn’t like, but each one was just more interesting and delicious than the next.”   

“We chose the 2015 lot because it’s bold, chocolatey, and is an entirely different flavor profile than the other American single malts that are out there,” explains founder Jon Buscemi. “It’s effortless to enjoy while still being incredibly complex.”

Wolves ‘Malted Barley Series: Lot One’ American Single Malt drops this Thursday, April 6.

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.