White dog, or white whiskey, is, basically, moonshine. It’s newborn whiskey, crystal-clear grain distillate, as yet unkissed by the barrel, the vessel that lends whiskey some or all of its color and much of its flavor. And white dog is currently having its day.
“Aging in wood has many beautiful effects on a spirit,” said Tad Carducci, half of the cocktail consulting duo known as the Tippling Brothers. “But it does tend to disguise whatever the base spirit is. When you strip that away, you’re getting a real sense of what wheat offers, or rye or corn.”
Unlike vodka, in which the source grain is often purposefully purified to a vanishing point, white dogs are pungently fragrant, with a chewy sweetness to them.
This spring, Buffalo Trace began a limited commercial release of its white dog, which until now was available only as a much-coveted souvenir from the distillery’s gift shop. The bottles took their place on store shelves next to a growing line of colorless whiskeys.
Most are the work of young micro-distilleries like Death’s Door, in Wisconsin; Finger Lakes Distilling, in upstate New York; Tuthilltown, in the Hudson Valley; the Copper Fox Distillery, in northern Virginia; and House Spirits, in Portland, Ore.
There are so many white dogs on the market now that Joe Carroll, owner of Fette Sau, a bar and restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offers a white-whiskey flight. Passengers on that flight, he said, include everyone from informed whiskey aficionados to inquisitive novices who think whiskey is born brown. “They’re curious because they don’t know anything about it,” he said.