Welcome to the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award!
On the first of every month, someone is awarded the prodigious title of Whisk(e)y Warrior. A question and answer interview is conducted with the valiant warrior and then distributed to the world in a special Whisk(e)y Warrior Release. What is a Whisk(e)y Warrior? Find out more by clicking here.
And now, we proudly present your Whisk(e)y Warrior.
He’s the Robin Hood of whiskey, sharing his liquid gold with those less fortunate. He’s a powerhouse personality wrapping the whiskey community in bear-hug comradery. He’s also a whiskey podcast co-host with a million-dollar idea. He is…
Evan Haskill, Whisk(e)y Warrior!
Zac: Evan Haskill, you handsome devil, it’s my pleasure to be interviewing you today. Let’s start off with an easy question. Where are you from?
Evan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, born and raised.
Zac: You know, I saw this hysterical movie years ago. It’s about these three guys that go hunting in the UP...I can’t remember what it’s called.
Evan: I don’t know man, I uh, I don’t take credit for the UP. I’m very anti UP.
Zac: Oh yeah? Well, it’s not even attached.
Evan: No it’s not! Give it to Wisconsin or Canada to have it. You know, we actually, Michigan kind of won the Upper Peninsula in the battle of Toledo.
Evan: So Toledo was a part of Michigan. If you look at the bottom of the border of Michigan you can see it’s higher where Indiana is, and then it juts down for Ohio so that Ohio could have Toledo. We were compensated with the Upper Peninsula. So I’m a big Toledo Mud Hens fan, but that’s the only good thing about Toledo or Ohio in general.
Zac: Speaking of the Midwest in general, I have a few friends who are from the Northern Midwest. Typically, the culture – from what I’ve observed – is that people might drink but you don’t talk about it.
Evan: Oh yeah! You are spot on! I mean, I still get grief from people all the time who are so disappointed in me, or they wonder what happened to me. And my family, they weren’t anti drinking, but they didn’t drink. And so I didn’t drink either. So getting into Bourbon and whiskey is a relatively new endeavor for me. But yeah, without a doubt, not everyone is proud of the accomplishments I’ve made in the Bourbon community. Some people wish I’d not be as vocal about it as I am.
Zac: So about how old were you when you got into whiskey and what was the spark?
Evan: Oh man, that’s a question I love to answer. I was reading BuzzFeed, you know as my generation does, and it was about four years ago. I was approaching my thirtieth birthday and BuzzFeed did a list of thirty things you should be able to do by the time you’re thirty. There was lots of really good, helpful, industrious type stuff. And then one of them was order a drink of whiskey neat. And I was like, I’m going to do that one. That’s the one I’m going to pursue from this list. And so I did. I went out, I was actually looking for Lagavulin because I’m a big Ron Swanson fan. Luckily I couldn’t find it. If that had been the first thing I got my hands on I probably would have just walked away, to be perfectly honest. After trying a couple different things and some Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, it was Buffalo Trace. I found the Buffalo Trace standard offering and that was where I first started drinking it neat and being able to have a couple pours. But yeah, it was a BuzzFeed article that kind of prompted it and I haven’t looked back.
Zac: Are you familiar with Lew Bryson’s book on Whiskey?
Evan: Not only am I very familiar with Lew Bryson’s book but I was just interacting with him on Facebook today. He talked about cargo shorts. Lou and I, he doesn’t know me that well, but I do bother him on Facebook from time to time and he’ll give me a little like or response or something.
Zac: So Lew talks about working past “the wall.” How long would you say that took you?
Evan: Man, isn’t that’s such a great way of putting it. He’s spot on. For me, it was probably months and I guess it’s more important to measure it in bottles. So I actually started with a sampler pack of Jack Daniels which was the regular Old Number 7, the Single Barrel, the Gentleman’s Jack, and the Tennessee Honey. And so the first three I hated, and the Tennessee Honey I was like, “this isn’t so bad!” So I bought a .750 of the Tennessee Honey and worked very slowly through that. Then I bought another bottle of the Tennessee Honey worked very slowly through that. And then it was the .750 of Buffalo Trace that came after that. That was over the course of months, you know because I just wasn’t loving it. Even getting through the bottle of Buffalo Trace took longer than both bottles of Tennessee Honey combined because it was the first time I didn’t have that super sweet cut on it to make it easy. I really powered through that and I think a lot of people who I talk to now, who don’t like bourbon, I kind of tell that story about breaking through the wall. And people want to say, “Well if I don’t like it, then why do I want to get through the wall? Why can’t I just walk away?” Because once you [get through the wall], it starts to become something very special and you will enjoy it IF you get through the wall.
Zac: What is it, would you say, that makes it so special?
Evan: The Bourbon community on Instagram and Facebook and even with some friends that I have locally. When you see the way that Bourbon brings people together, it’s incredibly cool to me. The pull for me was seeing that comradery that comes around the Bourbon and whiskey community.
Zac: When you’re not participating in the whiskey community, what’s your day job?
Evan: I’m a freight broker. So I move commercial or industrial goods. It pays the bills and Bourbon is the hobby that keeps me going.
Zac: Have you ever been sitting there sipping Bourbon and then suddenly have a whiskey industry innovation just come to you?
Evan: Yes, I absolutely have! I’ve been hesitant to share it with the world, but since you brought it up and I’ve been thinking this, I am going to share it with the world here and now. So, all the rage with barrel proof, aged, good products, people are always trying to innovate. How long can you age it? How strong can you make it? You’ve got the uncut, unfiltered, all we do is run it through a grate to kind of get the chunks out of it or whatever. And I’ve been thinking why? Why do that prior to bottling? Why not put that little grate, like a filter, right on the bottle? So that you can dump the barrel straight into the bottle with all the pieces of wood and char floating around in there. Let it continue to benefit from all that while it’s in the bottle. And then, as you pour there’s a little guard there on the tip of the bottle.
Zac: Kind of like the cap on a bottle of 151 Rum?
Evan: That’s exactly right! So let it continue to work its magic. If you were to have a bottle like this, where it still has the remnants of the aging process continuing to make it change, then you can say, “Hey I’ve been sitting on this bottle for 20 years. I wonder how it’s changed? How it has matured?” So that’s my idea.
Zac: Wow that’s genius! I think you just figured out how to bottle condition whiskey the way you would a good wine or beer. You heard it here first folks! Are you paying attention whiskey companies? If you use this idea, then you have to give credit and royalties to Evan Haskill. Thanks for sharing your idea, Evan! So are you Team Scotch or Team Bourbon?
Evan: Team Bourbon.
Zac: What’s something you appreciate about Scotch?
Evan: That’s easy! I’ve always had this appreciation of Scotch since one of my whiskey mentors is Team Scotch. Probably one of my top five whiskeys of all time would fall into the Scotch category. So it’s knocking off hundreds of Bourbons to get to this place on my list. And that’s the Dalmore Cigar Malt.
Zac: Evan, thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview and congratulations on joining the ranks of Whisk(e)y Warrior!
The next award will be released October 1st. Remember to nominate your favorite Whisk(e)y Warriors by clicking here. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for making this award a reality!
— Zac Smith