Delilah’s smack on the dot of 5 p.m. Now that’s dark. A friend and I walked into the Lincoln Park bourbon/biker bar at exactly that hour yesterday afternoon and found ourselves doubling the patron tally to four—or maybe five…">

Cub Appeal: With Lion’s Pride, Chicago Gets Its “First (Legal) Whiskey Since Prohibition”

Feel like it’s been getting awfully dark, awfully early? Try going for a cocktail at Delilah’s smack on the dot of 5 p.m. Now that’s dark. A friend and I walked into the Lincoln Park bourbon/biker bar at exactly that hour yesterday afternoon and found ourselves doubling the patron tally to four—or maybe five…


Lion's Pride Organic Whiskey, in Rye and Dark Oat

Feel like it’s been getting awfully dark, awfully early? Try going for a cocktail at Delilah’s smack on the dot of 5 p.m. Now that’s dark. A friend and I walked into the Lincoln Park bourbon/biker bar at exactly that hour yesterday afternoon and found ourselves doubling the patron tally to four—or maybe five. Other than two men sipping beers a few stools down, I thought I glimpsed the shadow of one more lone drinker near the back of the room, but who could be sure? Truly, it was dark.

No matter. We were on a mission, and it wasn’t a social one. I’d placed a call to the Ravenswood distillery Koval earlier in the afternoon to find out where I might try its just-released Lion’s Pride Organic Whiskey—billed as “Chicago’s First (Legal) Whiskey Since Prohibition”—and was told Delilah’s was the only local bar that definitely had each of the four varieties (Rye, Oat, Dark Rye, Dark Oat) in stock at the moment.

Despite the slow pace of business, it took a while to place our order, since, it must be noted, the tattooed bartender in his Slaughter of the Dogs T-shirt was just not that into us. Delilah’s is a rock ’n’ roll bar, so first he needed to put a new record on the turntable (something by the garage band M.O.T.O., if you must know), and then he had to cue up a vintage horror movie on the TV. But eventually we were allowed to state our interest in Lion’s Pride, and after one false start involving an unrelated whiskey and one phone call to find out where the correct bottles might be, we found ourselves staring down shots of regular Oat and regular Rye ($6 a pop).

Now, I’m not here to rack up eye rolls by pretending that what I tasted in those whiskey shots was every flavor of the rainbow plus a hint of mudflap, a top note of sparkling ruby, and a possible nuance of freshly baled hay. I did grow up on bourbon, but I’m no professional bourmmelier.

Here’s what really happened. When I lifted the Lion’s Pride regular Oat toward my nose, my first thought was this: bonfire. And when I tasted it: sweet cinnamon-y bonfire. The Rye had less of the charred quality than the Oak but more sweetness—I did begin to crave a chocolate chip cookie, so there must have been a vanilla note in there somewhere—and a more potently alcoholic finish. The “Dark” versions of each have been allowed to mature slightly longer (all are aged under two years, since the aging is only for flavor and not for filtering), and the results are similar but sweeter and more intense. Truth be told, my favorite variety was the one that seemed easiest on the palette: regular Oat.

This morning, I followed up with one of Koval’s owners, Sonat Birnecker, to find out if my observations were at all on target, from a whiskey maker’s point of view. “The regular Oat is aged in a lighter char than the dark oat, but you’re probably picking up on the more smoky oat notes mingling with the natural fruitiness of the oat spirit,” she explained. (Lion’s Pride, by the way, is named for Sonat and Robert Birnecker’s son, Lion.) And why did Koval decide to release Lion’s Pride now, after previously specializing in only white whiskeys? “It was just a matter of time before all the white whiskeys we were making would be released as aged whiskeys,” she said. “We like being the only distillery in the U.S. to offer so many expressions of whiskey out of five amazing Midwestern grains: rye, oat, wheat, spelt, and millet. Basically, Lion’s Pride is just an all-natural, organic, honest whiskey that we hope does Chicago proud . . .. This city has waited long enough to have one of its own!”

Look for a millet release in time for the holidays, Sonat says. Meanwhile, you can find bottles of Lion’s Pride for around $47 to $49 each at Binny’s, In Fine Spirits, City Provisions, and Whole Foods locations that carry hard liquor. Delilah’s is still your best bet (for now) for a Lion’s Pride bar experience, but when you’ve had enough whiskey, don’t try to order a beer to wrap things up. The bartender has a slasher flick to watch, and he really can’t be bothered with such middling requests.

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comments
4 years ago
Posted by userfree

Pretty harsh on the bartender, I hope he doesn't lose his job over this one.

4 years ago
Posted by Harebrained!

I've tried it and it was enjoyable. One thing I can't stand about this product is the branding. Their logo was clearly made by a friend who dabbles in graphic design but isn't professional by any means (you can tell by the emboss effect and warping of the text). So our design company tried to give them a logo/label "facelift" but they wanted nothing to do with it.

For people who want to stray away from the brands they know (like Jameson and Makers), they base their purchases on the "cover of the book". Their logo misses the mark and it would fail to turn my head on a liquor shelf.

You can see what Harebrained! whipped up here.

http://harebrained.tumblr.com/post/1982053577/the-other-week-we-read-on-the-chicagoist-website

Let us know what you think.

Thanks,
Jesse @ Harebrained!

4 years ago
Posted by Harebrained!

I've tried it and it was enjoyable. One thing I can't stand about this product is the branding. Their logo was clearly made by a friend who dabbles in graphic design but isn't professional by any means (you can tell by the emboss effect and warping of the text). So our design company tried to give them a logo/label "facelift" but they wanted nothing to do with it.

For people who want to stray away from the brands they know (like Jameson and Makers), they base their purchases on the "cover of the book". Their logo misses the mark and it would fail to turn my head on a liquor shelf.

You can see what Harebrained! whipped up here.

http://harebrained.tumblr.com/post/1982053577/the-other-week-we-read-on-the-chicagoist-website

Let us know what you think.

Thanks,
Jesse @ Harebrained!

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