Adam Carmer is a huge whiskey buff, and he has the daunting collection at his world-famous Freakin’ Frog’s Whiskey Attic to prove it. He’s also well aware that whiskey can be a polarizing world, particularly in the arena of new-make (unaged) spirits, with tags like “white dog,” “lightning” and “moonshine.”
Carmer, who also teaches beer, wine and spirits at UNLV, quickly learned from both customers and students that such spirits have a common “dissatisfier”: a very distinct, alcohol-heavy bite. And he saw an opportunity—a chance to bridge the divide between whiskey and the rest of the spirit world, opening up whiskey to a whole new slew of customers.
And Freakin’ Lightning was born.
Working with his brother Mark, Carmer has created what he calls a “clear, all-American, ultra-smooth spirit whiskey” that removes all those previously mentioned dissatisfiers. It’s a combination of 95 percent American grain (corn) and 5 percent bourbon. No bottles were available for sampling (or photography) at press time, but as Carmer describes, “It’s all natural—no additives, no BS. Just real good solid technical distilling using all the best ingredients and technologies available. There’s virtually no nose, and the alcohol is wiped out. The closest thing to this isn’t even in the whiskey category. It would be ultra-smooth vodka.”
In his bid to make the brand as unique as possible, Carmer’s creation comes in at 88-proof. If you can’t recall another whiskey on the market at that specific alcohol level, that’s because there aren’t many of them. “We could have been in the realm of 40 percent, 43 percent, 46 percent, but I wasn’t trying to be like everybody else,” Carmer says.
Perhaps the brand’s biggest selling point is its versatility. Carmer calls it “so smooth it’s dangerous” and says “it almost drinks like water.” That means you can take it neat, on the rocks or mixed with just about anything. “This plays well with everybody,” Carmer says. And he made sure to name the product so that customers could identify it easily when ordering. “What do you want? I want a Freakin’ Coke. I want a Freakin’-tini. I want a Freakin’ Mary.”
Carmer will officially launch the product at the end of the month, and it will be available everywhere, including Valley liquor stores and most major hotels. It retails at $29.95 for a 750 ml bottle, which Carmer says was by design. “I wanted to respond to the consumer, to give them a whiskey everybody can enjoy and afford.”
Affordability, a unique profile and unlimited uses. Now it’s up to the consumer to determine if Carmer has indeed captured lightning in a bottle.