Back in 2017, Lars Williams and Mark Emil Hermansen–alumni of five-time World’s Top Restaurant winner Noma–launched their own flavor company, Empirical. Now, the Copenhagen-based brand has unveiled SOKA, a new sorghum spirit.
Empirical SOKA combines distillates of fermented fresh sorghum juice and syrup. It’s born from the farms of the American south and midwest. The fresh juice lends springy, green flavors of melon, cucumber, and green apple, with the syrup bringing forward darker aromas of harvest, and notes of hay and toasted honey. The use of a third fermentation inspired by the production of Jamaican rum contributes a touch of fermented grass and brininess, binding everything together.
“SOKA tastes like the landscape,” says Empirical. “Like bright days and bluegrass. Like an honest day’s work. Like hay. Like the slow sunset over your family’s ranch. Like a place where you can breathe.”
“Fermentation is a large part of our creative process, as is our constant search for new sources of sugar, the key to it all,” explains the brand. “So, when sorghum came to mind, it got us thinking. This truly ancient grain is the fifth most produced cereal crop worldwide, playing a large role in beer production across Africa and Asia. But what about the stalk that supports it? Where are all the sorghum-based spirits of the world? And so we delved further, looking into sorghum’s rich history, properties and high sugar content.”
Empirical started by fermenting cane juice from European sorghum, blending it with strain upon strain of yeast from White Labs Copenhagen until they came across Thai Rice Chong. The resulting ferment delivered aromas and flavors reminiscent of freshly cut grass, green apples and barnyards.
The company then looked to Kentucky to source sorghum syrup from fifth-generation sorghum producer Danny Ray Townsend, before moving to Wisconsin to get their hands on sorghum juice from veteran hobbyists-turned-experts Richard and Brenda Wittgreve.
From there, they first pressed the juice before taking it to a distillery in Milwaukee where it fermented over three days. Next, it was on to vacuum distillation, and then the leftover wash from distilling the juice was used to ferment the syrup, leading to thefinal stage: the blending and bottling of SOKA.
Bottled at 43% ABV, Empirical SOKA is priced at $50 per bottle and is best enjoyed neat, in a ti punch, or as a twist on a Mojito.
For more information, head over to the brand’s official website.