Gear Review: Whiskey Leather Works Bradford Fly Wallet
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
As difficult as it would be to top Jon Osborn's last gear review, he's back again in typical Ozzy fashion (think beautiful prose, not biting the head off bats) and he may have accomplished the impossible.
Consider smells, for a moment, as they relate to memories. One whiff of old canvas and you’re a kid again, camped out under the stars in an old Sears and Roebuck pup tent. Or maybe it’s the combined aroma of wet Labrador, marsh grass, and Evinrude exhaust that puts you back in the duck boat with Dad. Fresh-cut alfalfa, horses, campfire smoke… these are poignant reminders of places we’ve been… and places we wish we could return to.
The late, great Field and Stream columnist, Gene Hill, summed it up well:
“If in a single day we smell coffee, dawn, gun oil, powder, a wet dog, woodsmoke, bourbon, and the promise of a west wind for a fair tomorrow – and it’s possible for us to reek ‘happy’ – that’s just what we will do.”
Every outdoorsman has favorites, of course. Tarpon anglers, for example, tend to prefer cigar smoke, salt-tinged air, and lime-laden gin-and-tonics. Grouse hunters, on the other hand, revel in the aroma of waxed-cotton clothing, pipe tobacco, and Hoppe’s #9.
Certain fragrances, however, hold universal appeal. Take leather, for instance. Nothing feels, looks, or smells quite like it, which is why it’s been preferred by well-heeled sportsmen for eons. And few folks appreciate leather’s timeless charm like Dan and Ally Earnest.
The idea for their company, Whiskey Leatherworks, came to life back in 2013, over a keg of homebrew. It’s true, the term, “organic” gets overused sometimes, but dreaming up a business in a garage over barley and hops? That’s about as grassroots as it gets.
The Earnests envisioned building a business around rugged, refined goods that reflected a love of the American West; products that would “pair equally with a pheasant hunting trip” or “sipping whiskey at the local distillery.” Of course, the notion sounded great, but even early on, they knew success would require more than just positive vibes and poetic ideas.
Dan studied leathercraft at several American tanneries and he and Ally hand selected hides from notable sources such as Horween, and Wicket and Craig. Whiskey Leatherworks began selling hand-forged belts and hand-crafted dog leashes, flasks, wallets, bags, and other accessories, and before long, business was booming. In fact, the Orvis Company recently picked up their product line.
I was fortunate enough to receive a Whiskey Leatherworks Bradford Fly Wallet as a gift from a friend, and it’s exceptional – right down to the initials embossed on the front. Handstitched leather and wool offer an ideal place to organize wet flies – with style. And, like the best leather goods, the more use it gets, the better it will look.
And the best part? That smell. Even a small whiff of that wallet transports me back to a softer century, where I can fish in the company of old-time anglers like Zane Gray, Ernest Hemingway, and Joe Brooks – if even for an afternoon.
For a brief tour of the inner workings at Whiskey Leatherworks, check out this video: https://whiskeyleatherworks.com/pages/about-us
What I Like:
The whole package: quality craftsmanship, timeless materials, and little touches, like the addition of personalized embossed initials.
Leather fly wallets are admittedly old-school, at odds with modern-day ripple-foam and plastic flip-top compartment-boxes. And yet there’s a charm inherent to leather that contemporary materials can’t match.
Nylon grows fuzzy, plastic gets brittle and develops cracks, but leather only gets sexier with age. Wish I could say the same for myself.
What I Don’t Like:
For what this fly wallet was created for, there’s nothing I don’t like. A word of caution though: fly wallets are made to store patterns like Wooly Buggers and wet flies, not stiff-hackled dry flies.
An integrated leather lanyard would be helpful, as ham-fisted anglers like yours truly are forever bobbling gear. Now add to that the fact that steelhead season peaks in March and November in my neck of the woods – when streams are slushy and frigid. Numb fingers increase the chances of a mishap by ten-fold, and I’d hate to drop this treasure in the current.
Salmon, steelhead, and trout anglers who appreciate the timeless class of leather.
Stars: 5 out of 5