In Chicago bar rooms, the word Malört elicits a distinctly polarized response. Dozens of searchable “Malört Face” videos illustrate the range of reactions to this infamous big-shouldered Swedish wormwood liqueur. Carl Jeppson produced and popularized the liqueur in the 1930s and several decades later, its many fans are legion. Over 90% of all bottles sold are consumed within the greater Chicago metropolitan area. “It’s more of a dare than a drink,” says noted beverage enthusiast David Risner. In pre-Covid times, Mike Miller, proprietor of Delilah’s in Chicago, poured “at least a bottle a day, if not more” to the devotees and detractors who dutifully knock it back as a shot.
Pioneering Chicago operation CH Distillery is the current producer of Malört, and has recently released a 4-year-old straight blended bourbon—a radical and welcome departure for the Jeppson’s brand. Barrels were sourced from MGP in Indiana, O.Z. Tyler in Kentucky, and George Dickel in Tennessee. Aged in new charred American oak barrels, the whiskey has a rich, amber hue and a pleasant, spicy aroma. The high-rye mash bill (21%) adds distinct characteristics to the spirit.
On the nose, recognizable notes of honey and cornbread emerge. The palate is medium-bodied and the flavors of candied fruit, toffee, and tobacco engage the senses with an exceedingly smooth finish. Fans of bottled-in-bond whiskies will appreciate the 100 proof, 50% ABV. Retailing at $25 per bottle, this is an excellent value for folks seeking a daily drinker that mixes well and works great straight. Sweet home Chicago never tasted so good.