Multi-day tours provide a cross section of experiences. I’m rarely thrilled about every stop. If I see value, I’ll participate. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised. A few times, a tour which I may not have been initially interested far surpassed my initial expectations.
I received a Tucson tour itinerary that included a stop at Hamilton Distillers, the producers of Whiskey Del Bac. Since I don’t drink whiskey, I considered passing on this journey. Alcoholic beverages were excessively consumed in my childhood household. Instead of following down the same path, I chose a different lifestyle. I will occasionally drink wine or a small mug of beer with dinner. On a rare occasion, I might consider a diluted mixed drink. Even in my college years, I only had a few shots of alcohol. After what I witnessed in my childhood, I simply had minimal interest in drinking hard alcohol.
Even though I had absolutely no understanding of the production of whiskey, the process intrigued me. At the same time, I felt conflicted. My adventuresome side was willing to step outside my comfort zone to learn more about whiskey. Yes, walking into a whiskey distillery would definitely be a first. After years of avoiding certain types of alcohol, I had my reservations. Being totally clueless about this beverage created a sense of uneasiness. I knew that there would be taste testing. Would I be willing to sip whiskey? Would I feel awkward if I didn’t indulge? Once I acknowledged the source of my apprehension, I knew that I would have to step outside my comfort zone and experience a first.
Hamilton Distillers Tour
This company creates a unique and award-winning product, an American single malt whiskey. Colorado barley is the main ingredient. Tucson’s hot climate is considered during the aging process.
The tour included an explanation of the multi-step process (malting barley, mash, fermenting, distilling, aging in barrels, and bottling) and their customized equipment, including a copper pot still. The equipment is located both inside and outside the building.
Dale Riggins, our guide, also described the different types of blended whiskey that were aging in rows and rows of stacked barrels. Each grouping had a different release date. The distiller’s first mesquite product was the Dorado, a smoked aged whiskey that was malted over a mesquite fire instead of peat. As a byproduct of the production of Dorado, the company created Clear, a mesquite smoked unaged whiskey. In the initial phase, they also made the Classic, an unsmoked and aged whiskey. A more complicated process has produced two different blended whiskeys, Distiller’s Cut and Winter Release.
Eventually, we sat down at a long wooden table. Each participant started with three glasses. We followed these tasting steps:
- Smell the whiskey about 1-2 inches from the top of the glass.
- Avoid swirling the contents of the glass.
- Sip a small amount that coats the surface of the tongue.
- Drink a larger amount that passes over the tongue while breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
In the first round, I tasted the Classic, the Dorado, and the Clear. When I thought that the tasting was completed, she added the Distiller Cut and the Winter Release. Each sip created a tingling sensation that started in my mouth and slowly seeped into my abdomen. With only a few almonds to munch with a handful of sips, the alcohol electrified my brain like lightning. A small taste of each was all that I could handle.
As I walked out of the distillery, I was glad that I had added this experience to my list of firsts. While I’ll never recall all of the fine details from the tour, I will remember the overall positive experience and Dale’s parting words— “Whiskey Del Bac is a memory of Tucson in a glass.”
Sandra Bornstein is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She shares her experiences and recommendations on this blog and on other websites. Check out Sandra’s second website, https://thetravelingbornsteins.com.
Sandra is the content coordinator for Golden Living, a Best Version Media publication. In addition to writing family and business feature stories, she contributes a monthly travel tip column. She also writes for Fareportal’s online sites—One Travel Going Places and CheapOAir Miles Away.
Sandra is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. This memoir highlights Sandra’s living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. As a licensed Colorado teacher, Sandra has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. She also taught college level courses.
Sandra’s memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.