Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Beer & Weed editor Sam Pfeifle talks to Maine Craft Distilling
and Littlefield Confections about this deliciously intriguing new edible.
What's most important when creating a new cannabis edible using whiskey as a key ingredient? Perhaps counterintuitively, “the first consideration is always that there isn’t any residual alcohol,” says Jeffrey Page, head of edible production at Littlefield Confections. “We’ve all had those moments where you’re mixing alcohol with cannabis and it elevates the effect. And it’s really hard to control that effect. So we make sure to cook off all the alcohol in the process.”
So, yeah, there’s no booze in Littlefield’s brand-new Whiskey Caramels. None of the regulators are going to allow that (just like there’s no THC, or even CBD, in that terpene-infused beer that Bissell Brothers puts out with Mentation Cannabis every 4/20 now).
“As a spirits manufacturer,” says Luke Davidson, founder of Maine Craft Distilling, “the idea of edibles has been so far from my mind. In this building, the feds are very much involved with our lives and any kind of cannabis product and alcohol is a no-no in my world.”
But Littlefield had an idea that Maine Craft’s signature 50 Stone Whiskey would taste absolutely delicious in a caramel, so they did the research: The Office of Marijuana Policy and
Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations both agreed that as long as there’s no actual booze in the edibles, they could have at it. That left Page with consideration number two: “Making sure that the flavor profile is maintained and isn’t lost with the
cooking off process.”
Essentially, it happens at the end. The caramel is largely mixed and then Page brings the concoction up to 244 degrees on the stove — “nothing lower, nothing higher” — and then
adds the whiskey, keeping it at 244 until he’s confident the alcohol has burned off. “Then I take it off the heat,” he says, “put the full spectrum in it, and then a couple of other vanilla
flavorings, and we’re good to go. Oh, also the smoked Maine sea salt from the Maine Sea Salt Company.”
Davidson pipes in: “It was really great that you decided to use smoked sea salt,” he says, “and we have smoked seaweed.” Smoked seaweed? Well, yes. Maine Craft Distilling smokes their
grain by burning seaweed. “It’s a traditional Scottish thing,” says Davidson. “They use peat and commonly that ocean peat has seaweed in it, just by being on the shores of Scotland. We just use regular rock weed. And we use Maine peat as well.” “That smoke and that peat profile,” he says, “works really well with caramel, so it’s really genius.”
The 50 Stone is known for its full body, aged in oak barrels for four years, getting its name
from the 50 stones (a “stone” weighs about 14 pounds thanks to a decision by the King of England in 1389 because obviously) of grain that’s necessary to make a single barrel of the whiskey. “It’s basically the most traditional method and style you can get in a whiskey,” Davidson says. And that attracted Page. “It makes me feel kind of warm and toasty,” he says, “even just smelling it. It’s very familiar, very warm, and I want to feel that way with everything I make, as far as chocolates and caramels. That’s the feeling I want you to have when you eat that product.”
That’s true of the CO2-extracted “fuller spectrum” cannabis with which they infuse the edibles, as well. The extract comes from HighTech Labs in Biddeford, which uses what they call “supercritical CO2 extraction” to separate out the various cannabinoids in a plant and custom adjust the amounts of each in the extract they provide to customers like Littlefield.
The solventless process is also designed to preserve the terpene profile of the original cannabis. “You have 8-10 cannabinoids as opposed to 4-5,” says Page. “You get a lot more cannabis profile. It’s very well rounded. That’s how I like to describe it.”
Davidson doesn’t know about all that, but has been watching the cannabis market closely as someone who was part of the new distillery movement that has sprung up in Maine recently. “Chocolate and whiskey, they’re old friends,” he says. “There’s some kind of old traditional feeling that comes up when you drink whiskey and eat chocolate and adding a different experience to that flavor is a unique concept. You replace the experience, but you keep the flavor."