The United States is by far the largest market for Mexico’s Native Spirit blue agave based Tequila. The Tequila category has grown 158% in the U.S. since 2002 while the super-premium Tequila category has skyrocketed 893% during that time. In order for an agave spirit to be called Tequila it must be made of at least 51% blue agave and it must be made in Mexico’s Jalisco or in some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. As the popularity has grown, American craft distillers have taken notice and have taken on the creation of their own American based Agave spirit.
If you are going to launch an agave spirit what better time to do it than Cinco de Mayo. And that’s exactly what the makers at Gray Wolf Craft Distilling located in Saint Michaels, Maryland have done with the release of Lobo their American Agave Spirit. Named Lobo, the Spanish translation for wolf, as a nod to the origin of the agave nectar from which it is distilled, this spirit adds to the diversity of the expanding Maryland craft spirit industry.
Gray Wolf Craft Distilling was founded in 2016 by husband and wife team R.B. Wolfensberger and Meghan Brown. They’ve created a boutique Maryland distillery dedicated to handcrafting spirits using premium, intentionally selected, raw ingredients. Their agave based spirit is not trying to replicate tequila or mezcal, rather they aim to distill their own delicious and distinct spirit made from agave nectar.
Gray Wolf Handles the Entire American Agave Spirit Distilling Process
We reached out to Gray Wolf to get the inside story on their American Agave Spirit. Brown said, “We use 100% unrefined organic blue agave nectar as the base for Lobo. It is imported through southern California from a company that owns its own agave fields in Mexico. The plants are pressed to extract the sugary nectar and it is sent to us in a viscous liquid form, think the consistency between honey and molasses. From there we handle the entire distillation process, from fermentation, stripping, distilling, finishing and bottling.”
Lobo is distilled on Gray Wolf’s 80 gallon alembic still then finished with charred French oak staves. Brown explained that “We finished Lobo on charred French Oak staves. RB (Gray Wolf’s lead distiller) has been experimenting with levels of char/toasting the wood himself. With Lobo there is not one set style of char on the oak, rather, multiple levels of char on different staves. We expect Lobo may evolve as RB continues to refine his technique.”
“We found that at 87 proof the spirit on its own had the profile that we enjoyed the most. We also wanted it to have a bit more heat than your standard 80 proof spirits but we didn’t want it to go too far for the average sipper. At 87 proof it can be enjoyed neat or by adding an ice cube/water which opens it up quite nicely, as well as in a cocktail where the flavor of the spirit does not get lost but shines through.”
“We have always taken pride in being innovative in what we make,” says R.B. Wolfensberger, lead distiller and co-founder. “With Lobo, I hope we continue to excite the local spirits landscape. This is by far the most experimental spirit we have released.”
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A Distillery Fosters a Distillery Inside a Distillery – A Lyon and a Wolf
In an unique partnership, Gray Wolf distills their spirits on their own still inside of Lyon Distilling Company. Brown said, “We joined Lyon Distilling Co. in 2016 when our plans to open our own distillery in Annapolis fell through. We had become friends with Jaime Windon throughout our startup phase and the founding of the Maryland Distillers Guild. When it became apparent that Annapolis was not going to work for us, Jaime invited us to use the space at Lyon to develop our brand and have a true starting point. I often joke that they were our foster distillery and that we have since been adopted. What was meant to be temporary turned into a fantastic partnership between the two brands. It is a very uncommon business relationship but it works for both teams. We distill our spirits from scratch right alongside of Lyon rum.”
“We do everything ourselves for Gray Wolf within Lyon’s space. We share some of the larger equipment but we each have our own finishing stills. We develop our own recipes, mash, ferment, distill, bottle etc. We do share the tasting room. When people visit, all of our spirits (Gray Wolf and Lyon) are available to sample.”
Tasting notes provided by the distillery say Lobo is golden in color, with a bouquet of maple, vanilla, and butterscotch on the nose with notes of vanilla, agave, and honey caramel, while it finishes with a hint of smokey spice. It is delicate yet lingers on the palate with a mellow finish.
Gray Wolf Craft Distilling’s Lobo is bottled at 87° proof (43.5% ABV) and has a suggested retail price of $46 for a 750ml bottle. Batch 001 will have limited availability and can be purchased in their tasting room and at retail outlets throughout Maryland and Washington, DC.
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Gray Wolf Craft Distilling’s American Agave Spirit Lobo