Mulholland American Whiskey is a celebrity-backed spirit, though you wouldn’t know it from the bottle. The Los Angeles-based company that produces it, Mulholland Distilling, was founded by cinematographer Matthew Alper and actor Walton Goggins. Rather than flexing its Hollywood bonafides, the rather modest bottle design features the spirit’s name and maker, in a swirly, handwritten-looking font that’s both tasteful and amusing (though I secretly wish Goggins went all-in as his “Righteous Gemstones” character and dubbed it “Baby Billy’s Heavenly Hooch,” or something similar).
Mulholland Distilling is named for the man responsible for aquafying the City of Angels, William Mulholland, and its blending and bottling facility is located in LA. However, Mulholland Distilling is fully transparent about the whiskey’s sourced origins—it is distilled in Indiana and aged in Kentucky. They’re also up-front about the 100-proof whiskey’s mashbill, which is composed of 94% corn, 4% rye and 2% malted barley.
All this makes for a whiskey with a reddish-gold hue and a nose packed with sweet corn, vanilla custard, oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, and light cigar box. This medium-bodied whiskey starts with flavors of vanilla, nuts, sweet corn, and raisins, and a note that acutely reminded me of the stewed rice pudding dessert my aunt used to make for Christmas. I tried to unpack that highly specific impression, and came away thinking that the spirit’s combination of sweet vanilla, nuttiness, and spice drove me to think of that creamy, cinnamon-topped dessert from long-ago holidays.
Mulholland American Whiskey—which has a remarkably mellow start considering its proof—begins to pick up heat at the center, where the dried fruit notes of raisin and fig emerge. These darker flavors are followed by a surge of dry, tannic spice that brings in notes of leather, cigar box, and pronounced barrel notes. This robust finish is pleasantly interrupted by the appearance of a rich toffee note, which is itself joined by a bone-dry snap of sawdust. These two competing elements ride out the whiskey’s impressively long finish side-by-side.
The whiskey proved rewarding in a Manhattan, where its sweet corn quality and rye spice shone through. But I really enjoyed drinking it neat, and could happily finish off the bottle in that fashion (in due time, of course). In a domestic industry that sometimes feels hemmed in by our definitions of bourbon and rye, Mulholland’s decision to step away from the categories entirely and produce a corn-heavy “American Whiskey”—whatever that may mean—has resulted in an intriguing, original spirit that’s packed with surprises and worth mulling over.
And at the very reasonable price of $29.99, there’s little downside to figuring out what this unusual whiskey is all about.
— 50% ABV