Tags:
Ep. 46 - Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey's Melissa Heim

OLD WEST LEGEND // Hear the tale of one of the wild characters of the Old West.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

Today, we are headed to Portland, Oregon to have a chat with Big Nose Brand's master blender Melissa Heim, who has developed what could be called a personality blend of whiskey, based on a name you may or may not be familiar with. A complex and fascinating woman of the old west, Big Nose Kate. 

And if that name sounds familiar, you're likely a big fan of some pretty famous Hollywood movies like Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, or My Darling Clementine. And today we're going to dig a little bit more into her legend - and dig in a little deeper into the idea of creating a whiskey around someone's personality. And in fact, thanks to Melissa sending me a bottle, I'll get to sample that blend, that goes by the name Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey.

Here's what we discuss:

  • The many names of Big Nose Kate
  • Physician to the Emperor
  • Kate and the Earps
  • Saving Doc Holliday's tail
  • The many occupations of Kate
  • Where her nickname came from
  • Trying to translate someone into a whiskey
  • The art of blending (during a pandemic)
  • A unique blend of grains
  • The difference between blends and terroir
  • The bottle design and Easter eggs

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.

For more information:

Transcript

Hello Melissa Heim welcome to Whiskey Lore hello thank you melissa is the co-founder master blender of Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey and just by that very name you know there's some history attached to this somewhere so we're going to dive into that along with you so i appreciate you uh joining me to talk a little bit about your whiskey and and to talk some about big nose kate who i think some people may know that name may have heard it in a movie somewhere they probably don't know a lot and i have to admit myself i didn't know a lot how much did you know about her when you were making the choice of her as your as your namesake uh at first i knew as much as you i didn't know much beyond hollywood's romanticized version of kate um but as i was introduced to her and we were thinking of uh producing a whiskey in her namesake um like you i dove right into her history and biography and didn't leave any stone uh unturned she's a tough one as as a lot of old west figures are in that there is a sometimes a lot of speculation and then there's some first-hand accounts but then sometimes you wonder whether those first-hand accounts are kind of blown up for the for the newspapers because the newspapers love telling those stories uh back in the day but as i understand she actually kept a diary is that uh is that something that's available to be be read it is not available so the the one somewhat first-hand account we have is a unofficial biography that was written years after she passed and it comes from you know differing interviews that were done some of her writings writings from those who are around her and kind of this story was collected and pieced together some in her own words and some from others accounts so no the lot is mystery and there is speculation and you know we we spoke with historians and um traced her family and and i think we have a pretty good idea of who kate was and some of it was extraordinary and some of it was absolutely ordinary um so a lot of duality and who she was well when i went to tombstone and for people who really are completely oblivious to who she is uh she her her partner through some time was doc holliday and so that's where she gets uh tossed into the into the movies but i was at um i was in tombstone and you know tombstone is now very touristy and there's really not a whole lot of the old town left there was a fire there in 1882 so that that gutted a lot of the historic places and one of those places being the grand hotel which i think will play a part in this in this story is as we roll along which is now the big nose kate saloon yes but but you have to know when you go that that was not her saloon no uh that was that that but that's how i got to know her name or how her name really kind of stood out so it's fun to see that even though you know a lot of the tourist destinations are getting it wrong at least it may bring up some questions in our minds to make us explore a little bit deeper exactly at least it it triggers something that you'd want to ask more about it yeah exactly so so she's a woman of many names yes she had lots of nicknames yeah or she had she had one big nickname but then she had a lot of surnames that got attached to her but none of those actually even relate to her real birth name no do they they don't so so give us a little background on where she came from and uh and how she got to the old west right she's a hungarian immigrant her name is maria magdolna isabella horny which is a far cry from big nose kate um she came with her family um when she was a teenager and her parents unfortunately both passed away within months of arriving to the states from different illnesses her and her siblings went to a somewhat informal foster care of a gentleman and she took his surname for a short while before she decided to just leave and go on her own she was 16 at this point in time she rode a riverboat down to dodge city and took on the captain's last name for a short while his last name was elder and she gave herself a more you know assimilated name of katherine and so that's where we get the name kate elder which is used in most of the westerns movies that were made in hollywood so there is a story of how that came about it might not be the story told in the movies and then over time all those names just kind of rolled with the events that took place in her life she did go by kate holliday for a brief time when it made sense to use that surname and she was married later in life after doc's passing and took on his last name of cummings and her headstone does say mary cummings and you wouldn't i mean from start to finish you say who is this woman of many names um and she's a woman who made many different lives within one lifetime which it's interesting too because as i started digging in you read the wikipedia article you can read some other articles on her and there's a lot of conflicting information when you jump in one thing i found really interesting in one article which is a piece of north american history that i was not that familiar with and a lot of americans are probably not familiar with uh was that mexico had uh a second empire and that empire was in the um at the end of uh well right around the time of the civil war and towards the end of the civil war and so one of the stories was talking about that the reason that her parents came over was that her father was a physician and that he was sent to become the physician for maximilian the first of mexico who was the emperor who he was to take care of and of course things didn't end well for him and uh and apparently that's what sent them to davenport iowa was to get away from all of that yes so we know this story also i think the only piece of that that we can verify without a doubt is that her father was a physician whether or not he traveled to take on this mighty role we're unsure and we tried to get as much verified through the archives and we do have the paperwork of the family coming over leaving bremen and but everything beyond that after they they landed here they it looks like they went directly to iowa so who knows that wouldn't be the first family story that was completely muddled but yeah well the thing the reason why i questioned it too is because as i was reading that particular article the dates were all so screwed up and it was the same thing with the wikipedia article it's just all the it's like you can't match these times up with her uh with her birthdate is different on both of them the you know how how old she was when she was orphaned uh there's mention that her parents both died within a month or two of each other and that's what sent them off to um to a foster home at that point yes yeah the it's we i've read that wikipedia page so many times and i'm like who what like even wikipedia is written by someone with a you know their own perspective so it is hard to verify um the best we could do was was go locate archives um historical archives i could pinpoint some of the truths and that in that grand story but yeah what we know is that kate landed in iowa as a teenager and and left shortly after so there's also time in st louis from what i understand and that she went to a convent school is that briefly yes briefly okay yes she also i was gonna say she also got uh apparently uh a a record there for uh working in a brothel i forgot what they called it at the time uh they had a special name for it um but that she had uh uh worked for blanche tree bowl yes in a brothel in st louis so she was um she was experiencing life in many different ways yes again the duality of wanting to go to a convent and then working in a brothel she had a fierce drive for independence and then she ended up in dodge city and this is a fun part about people when you take all of these western stories uh and and there'll be a tie-in later on with like las vegas nevada when i went there i went there to research a story on fort union and loma pardo which are two uh legendary areas in in the world of whiskey legends that a lot of people don't know about but that that was a pretty rowdy place where where people went to drink but then i was asking a friend of mine who had done a series on billy the kid you know i said you wonder whether he actually went there to this place because las vegas nevada was one of these places where a lot of these outlaws would gather and spend some time and so what paths he might have crossed during the time that he was there and even big nose kate spent some time in las vegas and then we talk also about dodge city and the fact of doc holliday was there the wyatt wyatt earp was there his brothers were there um and she actually is this true or not that she actually worked for the eldest brother uh brother's wife james er we believe that to be true okay yes yeah and so uh and so that that's really would have been the first tie into the uh erp family and the the thing i couldn't figure out was why she after that went to fort griffin texas but apparently why it was there yes uh so she for someone who openly said despised the the herbs as a as a group of men um she thought they were unbecoming and again rowdy and rough and tumble and and she actually had a very uh proper upbringing um prior to coming to the states you know she's essentially an aristocrats daughter she's well educated spoke many languages and she just you know this was a new culture for her and um but yes it it does seem that she did travel to middle of nowhere little fort griffin texas uh because one of the herb brothers was there and that was that and then and that's where she met doc holliday correct and so doc was educated correct she was educated probably a good reason why the two of them bonded i would imagine i absolutely would make that assumption yeah so because he he always he always spoke of respect for her uh and her her knowledge and that she uh seemed very wise and could could really stand up with him in a conversation yes which was rare uh for him at least in his his experiences yes yeah so um this is also the place where she kind of bails him out of a uh of a little problem uh that that comes up can do you know that story can you tell that story well is this the go ahead this is the this would be the um just the ed bailey story i believe um so this was where uh he basically killed ed bailey uh in a card playing incident and the mob was coming after him right he i believe it's self-defense yeah after doc holliday and so kate decided um with this mob coming that she would go over and set a shed on fire to to draw everybody's interest away and then she comes in with she comes in with two guns and uh and basically uh rescues doc holliday from the situation and then they left town quickly and went to the and went to dodge and went to dodge city yes so they're back again they're back again on stolen horses i mean what you do for love is

yeah no they i mean that's just one of the stories i mean that's that's crazy that uh you know the risks she started to take she really came into her own and i believe that she that doc really was her one true love um and and vice versa they i mean what an incomparable pair you know she was willing to risk it all for him on multiple occasions um but yeah but that one that was you know just the beginning of what they do together and then they traveled a lot after that um deadwood las vegas new mexico uh arizona territory so does she it was when you were doing your reading on her you know what was the feeling that you were getting from this were they always together they kind of split apart and come back together kind of thing or yes they would often split up he traveled a lot because of his health as well having been diagnosed with tuberculosis so he would go up to colorado you know the clean air was often recommended for those suffering and so she didn't always follow she did work full time many times in brothels or had her own card card games going she was quite entrepreneurial very comfortable being on her own and taking care of herself so not they weren't always together and she did um tend to not go when he was with the earps you know she didn't join him down in tombstone for you know they weren't there together for a couple of months um but yeah on and off i would say they were never off they weren't together but they weren't off if you ask me it it sounds like it was a stormy relationship though it sounded like both of them were comfortable with the bottle and probably kind of feisty a little feisty i would say that yes yeah it's interesting that at the beginning of their relationship it's it's suggested that uh she had told him that she would give up working in brothels and he told her that he would give up gambling and then how did that work out yeah

yeah so uh go ahead sorry well i was gonna say so what other uh occupations did she uh because because it seemed like she was pretty entrepreneurial in in what she did yeah she um eventually did work at and i believe co-own a dance hall in santa fe new mexico um for a while and this is when she was uh not with doc and she would run her own card game she saw that doc was very successful at running his own card games and and she set up her own for a while and did that making her own money once again um but sometimes you know parts of her life were again very ordinary she was a maid she was a cook um most of this happened after doc's passing but she she was a survivor all in all and when i was researching kate you know it wasn't just her story or this chronological list of events that she did there was so much about her personality and psychologically that i wanted to understand um that is really what resonated with me more than you know her adventures with the guys it was really about who is kate who is maria who is mary cummings you know who who is this person that's constantly in a state of evolution um that's what really drew me to you know make a whiskey in her honor yeah is there is there anybody that you can think of in history that would relate to her in terms of a personality this is a very on the spot i should have an answer for this but um i love asking the time i know well i mean there's so many i mean there's so many so many people i mean i wish i could tell you um there are things about kate that you can totally idolize and resonate with and there's some things that are absolutely repudiating about her and i love that because she's imperfect and i'd say you know like all of us she she's an imperfect person with a with a great story that's worth sharing and keeping alive um and on her own behest not because of the company she kept yeah well she had a falling out with doc towards the end and it sounds like um there was a there was a point where somebody knew her weak spot and uh and and got her got her drunk and uh when doc got in trouble for uh being accused of being involved in a stagecoach hold up she came out and said oh yeah yes he he was there he did that and then next morning when she sobered up she said no he wasn't and got him out of jail but apparently that that just broke them apart they were good yes she did throw him under the stagecoach if you will

but there's there's talk of her and uh from your reading do you believe she actually went up to uh glenwood springs where he was uh where he was dying and uh spend her last uh time there or do you think that's kind of something we're just never gonna know in her words she was there um she was there with him so i'm i'm going with kate there's uh you know some of these interviews she was in her 80s and they're saying maybe her mind wasn't completely right she was in a pioneer's home um so there is you know again there's a lot of head scratching does it make sense that she was up there does the timeline fit but there's no one to counter the story so we go with kate's words on that yeah so the other thing is that we don't know whether she was witness to the uh the okay yes could she see it from the shop yeah yeah but that would fit with her uh with her big nose uh nickname because it's not about i kept looking at the picture on the bottle and for anybody watching the video you know she she does not have a big nose she has a very uh regular face so um so immediately you say okay it can't be because of the size of her appendage it must be because she just couldn't keep it out of anybody's business correct yeah and that that nickname was given to her from one of the erp brothers who said she was always nosing around she was always there up in their business if you will but that's how she learned that's how she you know became the scrappy human that she was um she she did put herself in everyone's business she knew what she needed to know yeah and so when um when she passed she was she was in her 90s and her she'd only been married to because she died as mary cummings which is one more name that you know we add to the list but she was married to a man named george cummings but that that didn't last very long from what i understand uh i believe did he i believe he passed away potentially of alcoholism okay yeah i heard the uh that he was alcoholic and and probably somewhat abusive as well so it's probably best that she got on her way so it's very interesting so i mean again we we get to a point in history where we uh we we hear all of these legends and stories and it's it's fun to be able to dig in even if we know we don't have the full story um to be able to learn a little bit more because it brings these people alive yeah and so and so how do you bring that character into your whiskey yeah personifying a whiskey is really hard actually um you know it's going into this we just want to be fully transparent with who she was you know she's not this you know big at sometimes she was larger than life you know she's this big legend she's this uh tour de force woman in the wild west you know rubbing elbows with these guys who are making history and then other times she's a maiden you know she's a she's a maid she's wearing an apron she's cleaning for people just to feed herself and then she you know is also this hungarian immigrant uh with a very you know illustrious family lineage again with the multiple languages and and you take all these pieces and you go how how do you put this in a bottle um do i even attempt to well you know i if you want to honor someone would it be a dishonor um but really you take everything i mean you can't you can't hide part of the story take the pieces you like um we took all of it and uh the whiskey again looking at it from thirty thousand feet um you know when i develop any product it's a very holistic process no if i can't explain why something is done i won't do it so coming up with the blend and knowing this would be sourced and blend is really because that's what kate was she was the source of all these blends of experiences she came from all over she traveled extensively there was no single place that represented who she was or was a defining marker in her life in my opinion so me and my teammates i said you know this has to be a blend guys like um it it makes sense that's who you know she is a blend of so many things and they're like wow like good call and i was like okay thanks so we'll start there um and then you know making the whiskey it was really about um taking pieces of her history and now we're in the american west at a certain point in time and um you know even the choice the intentional choice to not use any bourbon in the blend bourbon has its own rich history and it never really crossed paths with her those stories didn't weave at all he couldn't force them together so yeah we really wanted something complex you know kate was a complex person but she was also approachable she knew a lot of people uh people spoke you know kindly of her at certain points so you say hey she she impressed these folks um so yeah making the whiskey was uh again a piece it was history it was philosophy um you know it's an art form it's all these things and i think you know what we came up with and that liquid in the bottle now i you know not to be corny but i think kate would enjoy it and if she could understand the story if i could sit here and have the same conversation with her and say hey like i was trying to figure you out and i made this for you um you know god willing she would she would say thank you this is great well this is fun because one of my first interviews was with richard patterson who was known as the nose the nose uh he's 50 50 year master blender in scotland and he does personality blends so people will come to him and say i would like for you to create me a whiskey and so he looks at their personality and he tries to match a whiskey to that personality and i would say that you you've achieved what you want to achieve because the first thing i noticed without hearing any of the stories without really reading anything about the whiskey i opened the bottle i put it to my nose and i'm like wow there's a lot going on here and then when i tasted it i got that same thing so certain whiskeys you drink you can rattle off maybe one two three things that you're getting out of that whiskey and when i find one where the more i knows it the more i go oh wow look that's there too and that's there too i think you you accomplished that on top of it even though it said it's at 90 proof um it's not a um it's it's not weak in any way it and it's not overbearing either it just has a nice um nice mouthfeel to it and we'll do a tasting in a little bit on it um but it's it's comfortable to drink and so there's uh uh you you can sense some of the the spiciness in it but nothing really kind of is overbearing um which which was fun in terms of drinking that so talk about your blending experience and and your background first of all how did you get into um this crazy world of of whiskey making and then um how did you evolve into blending that's good question uh not a very long history um i'd say in the history of kraft whiskey um it's it's a somewhat long history but no i really um had you know i wasn't that five-year-old who said i want to be a distiller when i grow up uh i haven't met one of those yet but it was definitely just circumstance um it was who i knew not really what i knew at the time and i grew up in portland oregon which is the mecca for craft craft wine craft beer really high quality ingredients are around so we get really high quality products so i started in the beer industry but i met a distiller who speaking of noses said you have a really good nose for this um for this and i was nosing around in the rum distillery and you know was kind of describing what i was smelling and he's like wow like it's really interesting you can pull all these things out but um i think we all have decent pallets we we you know most time it's just untrained so he took me under his wing and said i'm going to law school um do you want to do this for a living and i said no no thank you so much i studied liberal arts i did not have the confidence um that i would understand it uh it was it was a lot of information there's so so much nuance and um again having no formal training in in the sciences or or uh organic chemistry i said oh that was you know you sure man yeah are you sure anyway after some time i agreed and he trained me for a short time and i fell in love with the whole process i fell in love with it um once i started to understand what was happening more on the art side that's the side of my brain that really resonated and i understood flavor and profile and and how to accomplish that and kind of worked it backwards i said oh man in high school had i known ethanol was vodka i would have listened um so that was in 2008 and i ended up running that distillery for a couple of years he did go to law school and took that about as far as i could it was a small a small distillery working out of a brewery and you know i personally needed a little break from it uh and went to do the next portland thing i worked at a food cart for a while you know really using that that english education and um and ended up joining a distillery called east side and and worked with eastside distilling for over eight years and wore every single hat um short of ceo in that company um started as a weekend labeler even though i was you know trained and qualified to distill was just have to be back in the business um and ended up when i left that company i was the executive vp of operations and master distiller blender we use that term loosely it's it's pretty obnoxious actually i was the company's master distiller in blender so i was their head blender and uh it was all very natural very serendipitous from the distilling and then we built a new distillery and we didn't have a still that was operable we started blending and that was much harder than i ever could have imagined because you are not controlling the ingredients start to finish you have a finished product you need to again reverse engineer it based on sensory and and then you know from there you have your building blocks and you try to create something entirely new i loved it uh i found it challenging i found it rewarding um it was incredibly educational the you know it took so much trial and error and it made you humble for what you thought you knew it's very easy to take fantastic whiskies and blend them and make a terrible whiskey turns out it's not all they're not all winners so again taking this practice of of blending um we ended up launching a series of blended whiskies and uh i became much more comfortable with it um and enjoying it a lot actually and i haven't distilled in years now i've actually just been blending and so with this product also having a better foundation for blending um i knew i knew the building blocks i wanted to start with with kate and then it was just a matter of getting the details correct and uh i produced this whiskey in my kitchen during a pandemic yes yes and so was with the business already uh in in motion at that point or was this prior to bringing your partners uh together no so this was ideation after um knowing my partner so i was actually somewhat recruited um headhunted they had an idea for a product well first they had a word which was big nose kate they had a name they're like this is awesome we want to this is a product this is a story there's so many you know arms of this that we could do and my partners actually have a long history in the spirits business so they aren't coming out of the woodwork saying i want to own a brand um and they were looking for someone who could make it and that was me and i just happened to have um become free you know in the summer of 2020 and it came across my desk my dining room table from a colleague and she said you know i've been sitting on this i couldn't think of anyone who would be right for this but now that you are available i definitely think you are the person for this and so it was just our small community uh people knowing people and um i talked to them i said you guys are about 18 months ahead of me like if i were going to do something this is entirely in line with what i would want to do as far as a product a brand a story authenticity you know really creating something wholly unique and uh and out of the box a bit um and they gave me free reign that's why we're really good partners uh we all have our expertise and mine is whiskey and and so we got to work this whole thing start to finish us meeting each other formed an llc in late of 2020 and had product being sold uh in september of 2021. wow so what were you mixing yeah what are you doing when you were when you're at your kitchen table are you just grabbing bottles out of the cabinet and going i wonder what this tastes like with this it was chaos um i also had a newborn so i mean if you really want to turn things to like level 11 for like making it extreme it was extreme whiskey blending um it was essentially should be an olympic sport so i have samples you know my own my own catalog of samples um but i was really able to lean on my friends and colleagues uh in the industry and said hey like i would i'm interested in this whiskey in this you know style or the sample could you send it to me um and had friends with dsps who are willing to accept those on my behalf and they're also major players in in my book for helping me get this exactly right and so i had samples coming in i had a catalog of samples um i would say the first 30 were no good just it wasn't good i didn't have temperature control you know you're mixing it's hot it's you know all those little things that a lab is great for um i did not have i was using my daughter's tylenol droppers you know these are my my tools and like it was just silly i mean if the picture i obviously archived it for for personal reference because it was pretty funny but once once i started nailing down where the flavor was going it happened really fast after that i was like oh it's just minor adjustments here and there um and you're spot on i wanted something complex and approachable these are words you know people throw out we want to make a whiskey for everyone i'm like that is impossible um but i did want to have a big nose i mean come on that you you have to use that play um right so really it was about layering flavor starting with a great base that i knew could hold the product and then what we call the salt and pepper what are the seasoning flavors that are going to really enhance it and uh yeah 90 proof um is what i settled on because it didn't it didn't hide the esters you know there's a lot of flavors going on there's pot distilled whiskeys in this blend which are really concentrated and i didn't want those to be masks or masked pardon me or diluted um so again finding the good base getting the right seasoning that that all happened again pretty quickly um once i got the hang of it so so the first thing that i noticed when i put my nose to it uh and then i went back and read some some other people's reviews on it i'm like none of them noticed the first thing that just jumped right out of me is that there is a rye component to this it is a very strong rye component which i think if you're looking for complex rye is a wonderful grain for that because there are so many different expressions that that can come out of rye did you choose just did you just choose a particular uh grain of rye or did you uh did you try to find different varieties that uh that that could really make it even more complex so i knew the rye i wanted to use i actually knew the rye whiskey specifically i wanted to use because of its complexity and just how it's treated and it's actually out of texas and they're using local rye heritage rye and then part of the backbone of this is a blend of 51 rye 49 malted barley and you know when it comes to kate she does have a little bit of that spice side and i know rye can be floral but this isn't a feminine whiskey you know this isn't a gendered whiskey at all it's about a personality you know it's it's a story and we really just wanted again some complexity um and so this rye had uh 15 it's 100 rye it's it's pot distilled and aged three years um in hot texas heat um but 15 of it is roasted so we're getting notes of coffee and we get you know when i put myself in kate's shoes i'm thinking okay like i'm opening my eyes and i'm in prescott arizona wherever i'm at like it's you need that mud water in the morning you know that's it's just what you need to get your day and life started so coffee was a no i knew i wanted without being obvious about it um you know without saying there's coffee in this um really just looking for that that perfect tannic mix and so this rye um that i ended up using as part of the seasoning had a really excellent undertone of like bitter chocolate and some coffee and it really took me to a place and that's what i wanted um each of the spirits to do yeah but it has that earthiness and that that floral um rye character um and i like to say that when you make rye and it becomes a harsh rise usually when there's corn involved yes and so when i was drinking this i was going i'm not getting that harshness which says no corn in this so you really did avoid bourbon all the way around there's no corn in us uh yeah and we i mean people talk about you know oh it's a western whiskey it's the whiskey they would drink in the west i'm like oh no with this what they were drinking was not whiskey that was just that was corn fire um yeah so there's no corn um again corn is a very american crop um and it wasn't uh widely grown outside of native communities in the southwest um and it really had no place in this whiskey um not flavor-wise in my opinion um and and not really for the story uh so sticking with malt again that's sort of leaning in her european heritage um and then you know we also obviously have american single malt whiskey which is rising in popularity and becoming a real forceful category which i love um and and for me that was a much better profile than trying to sprinkle corn in for the sake of sprinkling corn in yeah somebody passed me an article and i have yet to read it i need to read it though but it was pointing out that um rye was used a lot in germany so it was actually i just read that article did you okay oh you don't have to tell me they're like right it's not the american distillate we think it is yeah we we just assume that it is but that's uh that that's interesting to note i mean that we we think of hops come from uh from germany and from uh european areas but uh but rye we kind of say oh well that's canadian or that's going to be northern united states but it really comes from a variety of air well you're talking about a texas rye uh and if they're using local grains then we got texas on top of that i know yeah you just have to go a little bit further it's like whatever you think you know it came from somewhere else um yes the rye i thought was uh an interesting component to bring in again for some strength of flavor and you know a strong backbone to the whiskey who was it someone said they had never seen this this blend um mix before of essentially straight maul and rye and i don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing because i'm all about taking risks but i don't want to blow the whiskey world up um yeah but i mean malt is very expressive too and i mean when you think about scotch whiskey and how it uh it has such a wide range of flavors to it um that that it can really bring something to the game as well that doesn't just have to be something that you're using uh for the enzymes to to make the corn work right yeah it's it's not an additive this is the the key player in this whiskey there's also different aging techniques used to make this the the single malt using out of virginia was in an ex-sherry cask so there's different casks also being used i mean i really just went all out on this it's uh you know the distillation style the grain profile and the aging profiles and the geography you know all these things where people are trying to capture a terroir i was like blow it up uh she it's i think there's so much um that can be done in the world of blending uh that you can take sort of chaos and make something harmonious out of it um and that's that's what kate is yeah well it's i think blending in whiskey and i've brought this up in a couple of occasions here recently uh when i was talking to alex castle at uh old dominic she's made a blended bourbon which is a i think it's one of the best things they make and uh sometimes when i am drinking you know like for instance we think of blended scotch in in the past that was the most desirable thing they were trying to match what they were doing in ireland and that was what you did was you you blended because you showed the skill of the blender but then there are now we're to a point where it's like oh well single malt you know you want to taste what the area tastes like but there really are two different worlds and both widely available for the whiskey drinker to be able to not only taste the terroir but also taste a personality and be able to understand when someone is going to craft something how when they have the tools around different whiskeys that they're bringing in they can express themselves and make this thing about um you know what they want to bring to the world instead of what the world is going to bring to them well said yes there is a puritan mindset in whiskey um where you know they're trying to get the singular source the singular pure thing um which great go for it um i i just think there's there's so much more that can be done if we bring it together um yeah and i've also produced blended bourbons um in blended rice and uh i would say

you're getting much more bang for your buck uh if you will when you're when you're sourcing these things and and making something out of again chaos yeah so is it something that's brought to you already aged and you're just doing the blending or are you doing any of the aging on your end no currently we're not doing any of the aging we've only produced one batch um the idea is to to bring things down to a rick house and do some blending in the future when we start getting our supplies in order but currently i am getting barrel samples sent to me i'm picking barrels and those are being shipped and then it's to exacting standards so i am commuting to santa fe new mexico from portland um and and doing the blends um in person uh because you know even when you have a recipe once they land you have to you have to get involved with that barrel and so over time maybe i'll be able to hand it off to my partner my co-packing partner but not for a long time it's tough when you have a particular pallet and you you know to be able to hand that off to somebody else that's that's what amazes me how a master distiller can turn things over to another master distiller and things don't just change because our palettes and our experiences are so different yes uh i am really lucky that at least my co-packer and i she was chosen for a reason she understands the product as much as i do and that was really important to me is to have a partner who can really understand what we're trying to achieve and it's not just mixing these you know whiskeys to this ratio and putting it in a bottle and getting it out um you know we were there the process the first blend took five days um and it was you know we're adding some of this and i'm like well you know originally i thought it would be this percentage but we knocked it down a quarter of a percent and explained why um and we went through that process together uh so while i have full confidence um i also don't think i'm ready to just let go of the experience of blending the whiskey so until further notice we'll be doing it together

so this has another thing that once it's in your mouth it's got this really nice lemony character that comes out to me uh just very full-bodied kind of thing to go along with all those those earthy tones that go in there and then it's it's funny because as you sit with it that's when all of a sudden to me that the the chocolate and that little coffee note come out in it and it's just fun to sit there with a whiskey and and sort of um watch it evolve while you're while you're drinking it so you going forward are you going to come up with other blends and kind of expand the line or is this kind of where you want to park yourself i think in the near future we really want to see this expression out in the world and the coffee lemon combination that was also purposeful who doesn't love an espresso with a little lemon expressed on it so right now it's just big nose kate this isn't going to be a huge you know line of brands or expressions i do have some ideations of how we could do you know ltos down the road really interesting things again true to the story not not so much for marketing but really things are i think this whiskey could again be amped up to another level um with some some moderation i see uh you know i'm not going to tell you actually i almost told you i almost just said it uh yeah no but yeah i do think it will be a very limited um line of of kate and it's always going to be whiskey it's always going to be this blend um it will just have some modifications um but i'm i'm really proud and pleased what we were able to put in this bottle so um where is it available right now today it is available in the state of oregon where i live um okay and then it is available wholesale in new mexico through our co-packing partner as well as online through our e-commerce partner speakeasy so bottles can be purchased directly from our website okay all right good and uh plan is to spread it as far and wide as you can uh you know most people would say that uh but we're more of a you know not an inch deep in a mile wide type we really want to earn our markets if you will and and go where kate's accepted we will be opening arizona and colorado um hopefully in q1 maybe q2 of next year but really just kind of stay in our home territory of uh the west and southwest until you know consumers tell us they want it yeah we are a small group so your your bottle design was there anything in particular that inspired that because it it has the old west feel we we sort of say uh you know the more i research it the more i realize that those old saloons really just had bottles that they just keep refilling rather than having a brand name on them um but uh but where did your uh design idea come from so the label um luckily one of my partners is a design guru um and has a little boutique design firm in chicago so this was uh the label right like rendering that uh i was shown when first brought um onto the team and and all the little easter eggs that you see on there now were added as a collaboration um between partners so there's so many nuances to that bottle i mean even the scalloped edges reminds me of sort of a perfume bottle it's a little feminine without being girly if you will um this isn't you know women's whiskey with rhinestones or anything like that it's uh the green strip denotes that there's rye in there it's very subtle all the little phrases you know those are either kate's words or things that have to do with her culture i can't pronounce this one at the bottom what is that

i know it means may their ashes rest in peace it is um it's customary on hungarian tombstones um and so that was for kate as she is you know no longer with us um even the shape of the label looks like a headstone if yeah the art okay um so this was one of the only pictures we could get verified from the arizona historical society that was kate okay so we used her image and she has she has no kin uh there's no family left of kate's um so that is you know somewhat of a public domain image um and then yeah the the your business is my business i mean there's so many great little things on here that um yeah was that a quote from her because uh because it fits with the book yeah i do think it's a quote from her book um according to kate the book that was written um and it just again goes so well with her being nosy and curious um yeah yeah and so yeah again team effort coming together with that full final product fantastic well melissa i really appreciate you going through and talking a little history with me on the big nose kate and letting us know a little bit more about her and and also about your journey and and blending and making a personality whiskey because i think it's it's a fun thing that more blenders need to do and get credit for i think thanks drew appreciate it

Listen To More Interviews