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If reassurance can be bottled, we can all take great comfort in the fact that Veronica Townsend has us covered.

Reassurance and comfort. At 112 proof.

Townsend arrived on the scene at Hamilton Distillers last fall, the Tucson company behind the popular Whiskey Del Bac single malt portfolio. She was named head distiller following a stint at Nauti Spirits in Cape May, New Jersey, where she crafted a number of spirits from sweet potato vodka to American molasses rum. She ultimately set her sights on the southwest and found that the Hamilton gig checked the requisite boxes.

That this Jersey girl interviewed onsite on an August day when the temperature flirted with 110 degrees, knowing that her work would involve stoking summertime mesquite fires that produce the smokey profile of some of the company’s spirits, is a testament to her commitment.

“Coming from a broad-ranged distillery to one that’s more focused, one that allows me to get in touch with barrel work, aging, and malting, has been great,” said Townsend, head distiller at Hamilton Distillers, 2106 Forbes Boulevard. “It’s a much more physical and labor-intensive process here compared to where I came from, but that’s a challenge that I’ve really embraced.” 

And then came 2020, a year of challenges that hit all of us at our very cores. But Townsend appears to have embraced those as well, and this year’s Whiskey Del Bac Winter Release, a distinct, one-off, single malt whiskey, with a proof of 112 and a higher concentration of mesquite smoke, is representative of what she calls “a blend of hope and joy.”

Initial work began on the 2020 Winter Release two years ago, prior to Townsend’s arrival, but additional artistry is exhibited in the actual blend and finishing that her unique impressions anchor.

When she talks about the whiskey’s fragrance and flavor profiles, it’s clear that comfort takes center stage. “We worked with used barrels from Booker’s Bourbon in our aging process, and the sweetness from those barrels blends wonderfully with our mesquite to produce a warm and smokey black cherry and raisin profile on the nose,” she said. “On the palate, I get stone fruit with a nice smoke finish.”

For the record, Townsend’s boss and Hamilton Distillers founder Stephen Paul tells me that he also gets notes of cookie dough on the palate and through the finish. It might be just a coincidence that Townsend is also a culinary school alumnus but chalk up another win nonetheless for her joy and comfort strategy, another signal of her reassurance that “better days are ahead.”

Her personal preference for enjoying the Winter Release is neat, with no ice, and about three ounces of the spirit in her glass for sipping by the fire.

“The biggest difference between New Jersey and Tucson is that I can sit outside here in December,” she said.

Townsend produced 493 bottles of the 2020 Winter Release. They are priced at $75 per bottle and will be available at the distillery starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.

For those new to Hamilton’s Winter Release experience, take note. It’s not atypical for a line to form outside the distillery’s doors before they open on day one of the annual sale, and this year Paul promises to have a social distancing protocol in place to maximize the safety and health of his fellow mesquite mavens and craft whiskey-loving customers.

With all the chaos happening these days, the spirit of reassurance shines in the 2020 Whiskey Del Bac Winter Release. I’ll drink to that.

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.