Chasing The White Dog with Max Watman

Max Watman Chasing The White Dog
Max Watman Chasing The White Dog

White dog is the pure distilled spirit made from fermented grain.  This clear high proof spirit is ultimately put into barrels and aged to become the golden whiskey most people are familair with.

For some this interm distilled spirit IS the final product and if it is produced from an illegal source it’s commonly referred to as ‘moonshine‘.

The illegal white dog / moonshine industry in America is enormous.

“One operation was consuming so much sugar that they were second only to Hershey’s in sugar consumption in the US”, comments author Max Watman as he reads from his book Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine.

Reading to a crowd of spirit enthusiasts at the House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, Max Watman discussed America’s history with spirits and distilleries (both legal and illegal).  Some of the facinating nuggets of info Max shared:

  • One of Thomas Jefferson’s key campaign issue in running for president was repealing a whiskey tax
  • After the Civil War a huge focus of the newly created IRS was collecting on the whiskey task but the people enforcing that often were crooks themselves.
  • Before prohibition there were over a thousand legal distilleries after only 12
  • The distillery movement in America is in a resurgence with now over 200 distilleries in the US

As Max Watman spoke and read from his book House Spirits passed around samples of three of their white dogs – a rye based one (80% rye, 20% barley malt) , 100% malt and a peated malt that was surpluss from their custom barrel program.  It was a great experience to sip these  firey spirits (each at about 120 – 140 proof) and taste the raw ingredient before the oak barrels impart their flavo

Of the three my favorite was the rye based white dog. House Spirits has this whiskey in barrels and is planning to sell both the final rye whiskey and the rye white dog soon.  I also had a chance to taste their finished malt based whiskey and it’s also really good.

House Spirits tends to age their whiskey for a shorter period of time to preserve more of the characteristics of the raw spirit and not have that overpowered by the oak. It’s an interesting approach and one which has served them well so far.

If you’re a fan of whiskey I’d definitely recommend seeking out white dog, it’s amazing to experience the raw spirit and really helps accentuate what each element brings to the final whiskey equation.

You can order Chasing The White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine at Amazon and find more info about White Dog at Max Watman’s site.

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+Geoff Kleinman, is the founder, and managing editor of He is a nationally recognized spirits columnist and staff reviewer for Whisky Advocate Magazine. Geoff's work has appeared in dozens of major magazines including Playboy Magazine, Black Book, and Mixology Magazine. He is a current sitting judge for the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, the founder of the Society of Modern Journalists, holds BAR certification from the Beverage Alcohol Resource Group, is a Certified Cognac Educator, and a Kentucky Colonel