Single barrel, so there are no other barrels blended in with it, it is a High Rye Whiskey…rye spice to it, right up front…nice little earthiness to them…super well balanced…really smooth for a 100 proof.

Christian Staehly

Brand Ambassador, La Crosse Distilling Co.

Today we chatted with Christian Staehly of the La Crosse Distilling Co, we discussed his own background in whiskey, as well as insights on their new products and specifically the High Hawk Straight Rye, we even got to hear how music plays an important part in this business.

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by Balancing Act: Teach, Coach, Mentor, Inspire, a collection of candid observations on the challenges facing business leaders today. Balancing Act is authored by Dr. Andrew Temte and is available today on Amazon and other fine bookstores. Today we chatted with Christian Staehly of the La Crosse Distilling Company. We discussed his own background in whiskey as well as insights on their new products, and specifically, the High Hawk Straight Rye. We even got to hear how music plays an important part in this business. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 00:45
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 00:46
And this is La Crosse Local.

Christian Staehly 00:49
Christian Staehly. I am originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, of course home of the Green Bay Packers. How I got into the whiskey business? Well, originally, whiskey is kind of something that I gravitated towards, you know, when I first started getting interested in spirits. A bunch of buddies actually from back home in Green Bay, we kind of started a whiskey club that we’d get together every so often and everybody would bring a few different bottles and we’d start tasting and doing things like that. It started kind of developing my palate doing that. And also, for years, I ran the bar program down at the Waterfront. So, obviously sampling things a lot down there. And that’s like one of the key things to, you know, learning more about whiskey is just sample. And what a lot of people don’t realize this from one whiskey to the other, they’re super different. So I kind of got interested into whiskey by doing that different stuff with my buddies and setting up stuff like that. And then just so happened that Chad and Nick had started the distillery and down the road, I got to join up on the team here. So I’m fortunate enough to be able to work on the whiskey program with them here.

Brent Hanifl 02:01
So, La Crosse Distilling Company, you guys got a new whiskey coming down the line. Its High Hawks Straight Rye whiskey. Can you tell us a little about that?

Christian Staehly 02:08
Yeah, you bet. So the High Hawk whiskey release that we are releasing is it’s a single barrel release. So, you know, we just not too long ago released the Robbers Rye? Where the Robbers Rye is going to be a blend of four barrels, and then those are barrel strength. The High Hawk whiskey is a single barrel, so there’s no other barrels blended in with it. It is a high rye whiskey 75% rye, 20% corn, and 5% malt. So a little bit different than the Robbers which is got it’s a Maryland rye, which means it has a higher corn mash fill which makes it a little bit more drink like a bourbon. Because Bourbons have to have 51% corn, where rye whiskey has to have at least 51% rye. So the Robbers Rye is a little bit on that sweeter side and has more of the fruit notes to it, where the High Hawk whiskey, being that high rye content 75%, its going to have that rye spice to it right up front, which is awesome. You know, in my mind, I love getting that spice up front. And then when you get higher rye whiskies, like that, you’re also going to get a nice little earthiness to them, which that has. It also has a little bit of nuttiness on it, which is kind of neat. But you get that spice up front, a little bit of nuttiness across the palate, and then just a little bit of like some dry cherry on the finish of it. So super well balanced. And for 100 proof, it’s surprisingly smooth, you get a little heat up front, but it is really smooth for 100 proof.

Brent Hanifl 03:33
And also what’s the connection related to the you know the name?

Christian Staehly 03:37
So, the name is in relation to a new band that just formed recently called the High Hawks. It is a kind of one of those, this I guess this term gets overused a little bit of supergroups, but kind of neat that it is. It’s a collaboration of musicians kind of from all over the country. They’ve formed, they had their first show last, I guess end of summer, fall. It’s a collaboration of Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, my brother Chad Staehly of Hard Working Americans, Adam Greuel of Horseshoes and Handgrenades, which I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with around this area. And then also the rhythm section, Will Trask and Bryan Adams of Great American Taxi. So kind of did a release in collaboration with their new album release that just came out a couple days ago.

Brent Hanifl 04:25
I’ve seen a, you know, a show at the distillery before. Also it just seems like you kind of work it into all the creative. The distillery seems to incorporate music into every product from the beer to having ongoing shows. Why is that component so important to the distillery?

Christian Staehly 04:41
Well, it’s like I was saying to Chad, who’s one of the founders of the distillery, is kind of, music has been a part of his life pretty much since he was a young child. And we’re all huge live music fans here at the distillery which obviously last year was kind of a struggle for us because we couldn’t get out and see any. And you know, spirits, brews they go together with live music. You know, that’s one thing that’s awesome having those two pair together. There’s also a lot of creativity in what Mitch and the distilling crew here is doing. The nice thing is, is that we kind of let him do his thing, there’s a lot of creativity there. There’s a lot of creativity in live music between writing songs, you know, improv stuff when you’re playing. And, you know, I said, I’m a musician, myself, too. So there’s a lot of the live music history in the background of the employees and staff here too. So, we want to incorporate it as much as we can, and get it, you know, out into the spirit world through our live music that we’re putting on in our other lifes that we live on a daily basis.

Brent Hanifl 05:42
So I’m sure it was, you know, hard for you personally, but also for the business. How has COVID affected, you know, the distilling company? Was there the opportunity to transition to other things, or was it just a, just a hot mess?

Christian Staehly 05:54
You know, obviously, last year was a struggle for a lot of us in this industry. More on the tasting room side of things, obviously. You know, it was just a roller coaster of a year, as far as the tasting room went. You’d get some information that you could open up and they kind of shut us back down. So the tasting room kind of sat, you know, well below where we have projected, you know, before all this hit. The nice thing is with us though, is we have the off premise business. So like an off premise being Festivals, Woodmans, all the stores across the state. Those obviously were booming during COVID because everybody was purchasing out at the stores and taking home to enjoy. And we had an awesome year as far as that goes out in the market. And so that kind of offset what was going on in the tasting room with not having the amount of people that we typically would see in the tasting room. But that being said, too, it’s nice to see things are definitely getting back to normal. We’re getting people, you know, more than what we probably would have projected at this point right now, too. So things are definitely bouncing back.

Brent Hanifl 06:59
Yeah, no lie. I took about a year break from restaurants and the distilling company was actually my first time back as the first restaurant I went to after getting the vaccine, everything like that. So what’s next for the La Crosse Distilling? I know you guys have been releasing, you know, new beers, food seems to kind of rotate through. What’s next for the distilling company this year?

Christian Staehly 07:20
Yeah, I mean, we got a lot of exciting things coming up. We’re doing a lot of seasonal releases. People probably would have seen we just released Espresso Yourself. It’s a coffee whiskey, espresso whiskey that we released that really went off well. We ended up doing a second batch of it, and almost out of that as well on our second batch. Distribution we started in Minnesota this year. So we’re trying to fill the shelves there and keep things going over there and get things going. Obviously, that’s a huge market. Kind of concentrating on the southern part, and then hopefully working our way up into the Twin Cities up there. We’re out in Colorado, That’s starting to take off for us out there as well as, so we got a lot of good things going. And you know, one of our main focuses is concentrating on our home state and making sure that we get the distribution across the state. We’re really working hard on that to get it in the stores across the state as well as bars and restaurants getting some cocktail programs going as well. And then one of the main things ,our tasting room, which is always a great place to come visit. Like you just said that you were one of the first places you went to, thanks for that by the way. We’ll have some new seasonal summer cocktails coming up here shortly. And then also the menu rotates on those seasons as well. So quarterly, we release those. So you’ll be seeing a new menu and some new seasonal cocktails out as well.

Brent Hanifl 08:39
So if people want to find out more, what’s the best avenue to send them to?

Christian Staehly 08:42
Definitely the social marketing side of things. So your Facebook, Instagram, stuff like that. But then it’s, our website’s really user friendly. You go to our website, we have an email list you can sign up for. The nice thing is when you get on that email list, or if you like us on Facebook, stuff like that, you’ll get up to date releases on the specialty releases we’re doing in the spirit world, menu items, cocktails, items like that. And then there’s also on our web page, you can go to the spirits tab, and that will tell you where you can find us all the way in any of our distribution areas. So stores, restaurants, bars, all that kind of things. We try to stay up to date as much as we can on that. So people if they’re in a different part of the state, not in La Crosse, they know where to get us.

Amy Gabay 09:30
La Cross Local podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com, and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like to rate us five stars, we appreciate it.

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La Crosse Distilling

About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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