Middle West Spirits produces a range of whiskies under their ‘OYO’ brand. Pronounced ‘Oh why oh’, is sounds rather like the state of Ohio where they’re based, but the Internet suggests that the origin is actually closer to the Native American articulation of ‘the river’. Founded by Brady Konya and Ryan Long, the distillery focusses on showcasing the wide varieties of grain that are native to Ohio alongside more traditional corn sourced from Kentucky.
Middle West is rarely seen in the UK, indeed, I had to go on a bit of hunt to source it. Whilst the distillery produces both gin and various flavoured vodkas, it also has a growing range of brown spirits worth taking a look at. From more traditional (corn, barley and wheat) bourbon-styles through pumpernickel rye (the only one I’ve seen to date), to 100% red winter wheat, and several cask finishes there’s a wide variety of expressions. all of which have some form of Ohio-based terrior. Today, we’re going to take a look at Middle West's OYO Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. Botted at 102 proof (51% ABV) , it’s made from 100% soft red winter wheat and finished for between 12 to 18 months in oloroso sherry casks.
Nose: Pronounced sweet and spicy. A big vanilla influence is joined by apricot tarts and cherry bakewells for a very fruity opening. This then moves into profounder aromas of toasted hazelnuts, roasted chestnuts and maple syrup. The spice comes across as part fresh, part cooked, so lots of pepper and cinnamon, or just BBQ ribs sauce. There’s some background earthy/meatiness, rather akin to a mushroom stroganoff. Interesting stuff.
Taste: Bold and chewy. The wheat base of this whiskey has added as much body as you’ve expect – I.E. loads. It’s impactful and mouth-filling. Flavour wise our fruits have gone darker with sour cherries, plums and damsons. There’s a fair slab of wood influence here which comes across as both spicy (cinnamon) as well as somewhat bitter at the same time. Burnt caramel and dark chocolate deeper things further and take us just to the edge of an equation that is very much sweet vs. acrid.
Finish: Medium in length, woody, spicy and still packed full of dense fruit notes.
OYO Oloroso Wheat Whiskey is an unusual and yet very interesting marriage of wheat and sherry that, for the most part works very well indeed. The wheat base has given the whiskey an ton of body, whereas the sherry-influence has added depth and additional flavour without ever taking the reins from the underlying grain. It dances a fine line in terms of bitterness and is still a bit prickly around the edges, but has a load of character for those looking for alternative wheaters to get their chops around.
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