Category Archives: Rye

Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon, Rye, and 15 Year Old Expressions of Both

james pepper 1776 bourbon 101x300 Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon, Rye, and 15 Year Old Expressions of BothJames E. Pepper is an old, old name in the whiskey world (Kentucky is plastered with the name), and the heritage of the Bourbon associated with the name is deep, rich, and (if you go to the whiskey’s website) fun to look back upon. In fact, Bourbon has been made under the James E. Pepper label since the 1800s.

James Pepper’s stills went silent in 1958 and in recent years the brand has changed hands and is now owned by Georgetown Trading Co., which produces Pow-Wow Rye and John L. Sullivan Irish whiskey. The company has spent years reproducing James E. Pepper to match the flavor profile of the original, “Old Style” James E. Pepper whiskey. While I’ll never be able to comment on how successful (or wise) such an endeavor might be, I can give some thoughts on the whiskeys — four of them, total — that are now being produced under this banner (in Indiana).

Thoughts follow.

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Bourbon Whiskey – The standard bottling of the brand. This Bourbon carries no age statement but has a solid structure to it. Modest wood notes here, with restrained yet polished sweetness. You get less of the typical vanilla notes but more citrus in their stead, a refined and balanced experience that provides a touch of racy red pepper, baking spices, and a little gingerbread on the finish. Very mild for a Bourbon — especially one bottled at 100 proof — this is both an easy sipping whiskey and a capable mixer. It’s far from the powerhouse experience that so many modern whiskeys attempt to create, but I found its hidden charms intriguing enough for repeated visits. B+ / $30

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey – Racier and more powerful than the Bourbon by a mile. Stronger citrus and more grain influence here, this 90% rye (no age statement) is a textbook expression of the spirit. The body is modest, lively, and full of dense bread-like notes on the back end. The finish is long and lasting. It’s just on the edge of being a little too hot, though a splash of water in this 100 proof whiskey can help to even things out. B+ / $28

These 15 year old whiskeys are bottled at barrel proof — actually lower than the 100 proof of the younger whiskeys, a quirky result of where in the rickhouse these barrels were aged. These two are just now arriving on the market.

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Bourbon Whiskey 15 Years Old – Amazing what 15 years in barrel has done to this whiskey. Gorgeous chocolate, lightly burnt caramel, and toasty oak notes — both on the nose and on the body. That dark chocolate character is impossible to get away from, it’s just omnipresent and really quite beautiful. The wood is also well integrated into the spirit, and although I would like a touch more sweetness on the back end, this is a unique and exciting Bourbon, highly worth seeking out. 92 proof. A / $100

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey 15 Years Old – Lots going on here. Racy, lots of citrus, ample spice and some crazy tropical character here — guava and overripe banana. The wood creeps up behind, giving the whiskey a finish that is heavy on alcohol and some of the more astringent notes. It’s definitely an intriguing upgrade over the standard bottling of the rye, but it can’t touch what Pepper’s doing with the 15 Year Old Bourbon. 91.3 proof. A- / $150

jamesepepper.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [ALSO HERE FOR THE 15 YEAR OLDS]

Review: Widow Jane Rye Whiskey

widow jane rye 112x300 Review: Widow Jane Rye WhiskeyI raved about Widow Jane’s Bourbon late last year. Now I’m taking on a new product: A 2 year old Rye made in Kentucky and finished, like its Bourbon, in Rosendale, NY using local mineral water from the Widow Jane Mine.

Bottled unfiltered, you’ll notice a distinctly visible haze in this brilliant amber Rye — little chunks of this and that suspended in the bottle, and lots of ‘em.

The nose is hot, not quite a fireball but spicy enough. Lots of smoky notes here, tempered by sweetness, though, giving it a burnt marshmallow character at times.

The body is racy but not overpowering, with wood — certainly comprising a good portion of those chunks floating in the bottle — the dominant character. Charred notes are strong, here taking on something akin to dark, possibly burnt, coffee. The body ultimately comes across as somewhat chocolaty, before that fades into a spicy, grain-driven finish. Lots going on here, sometimes harmoniously, and sometimes not. I’m also not totally sold on the unfiltered angle and have half a mind to run this through a coffee filter.

91 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #15, bottle #75.

B / $40 / widowjanespirits.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey

angels envy rye 172x300 Review: Angels Envy Rye WhiskeyAngel’s Envy is one of the best affordable Bourbons on the market, and now its mad master distiller, Lincoln Henderson, is raising expectations again with Angel’s Envy Rye, one of the best rye whiskeys on the market.

The mashbill will likely sound familiar to regular readers — 95% rye and 5% malted barley — the signature grain blend you’ll find in ryes from Bulleit, Dickel, and just about everyone else in the business who’s sourcing whiskey from LDI in Indiana (though AE will not confirm this). But as with AE Bourbon, Henderson has tricks up his sleeve to make this otherwise commodity whiskey his own. To wit: He finishes six-year-old rye (older than most already) for 18 additional months in Caribbean rum casks. (Those casks in turn began as Cognac barrels, making Angel’s Envy stop #3 on the road to boozedom. The Cognac is originally from Ferrand; the rum is a 10-plus year old bottling from Barbados, part of Ferrand’s Plantation Rum XO 20th Anniversary release.)

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Review: Craft Distillers Low Gap White Rye and 2 Year Old Wheat Whiskey

low gap white rye whiskey 80x300 Review: Craft Distillers Low Gap White Rye and 2 Year Old Wheat WhiskeyWe reviewed Craft Distillers’ Low Gap White Wheat Whiskey two years ago. Who knew that the company would radically broaden its horizons to launch plans for four different Low Gap whiskeys, a Wheat (previously reviewed), a Rye (reviewed below), a Bourbon (coming soon), and a mystery blend (coming after that)? Will a mere four white whiskeys cut it?

On top of that, all of these whiskeys are going to be aged, as God intended, of course. Two years after the introduction of Low Gap White Wheat, the aged, two year old version is now available. We sampled both the new white rye and the aged wheat. Thoughts follow.

Low Gap White Rye Whiskey is made from malted rye, double distilled in Craft Distillers’ antique copper pot still. There is lots of malty grain on the nose, but it’s quite mild, not the hoary, fuel-infused character you get from most white whiskeys. On the tongue, it’s surprisingly mild. Yes, the expected notes from the granary come through, but the rounded body also offers light orange and mandarin notes, banana, and a touch of coconut. The finish is grassy, and slightly smoky. A quite credible white whiskey. 85.4 proof. B+ / $45

low gap 2 year old wheat whiskey 80x300 Review: Craft Distillers Low Gap White Rye and 2 Year Old Wheat WhiskeyLow Gap California Wheat Whiskey 2 Years Old takes Low Gap White Wheat, made from double-distilled, 100% malted Bavarian Hard Wheat, and drops it into three kinds of barrels: new American oak, used Bourbon barrels (from Van Winkle), and used 350-liter Limousin oak barrels (formerly used for Germain-Robin brandy). It’s young stuff, and the barrels are still doing their magic here. On the nose, it’s enigmatic… lightly woody, the grain character still dominating. The body’s a different animal. A rush of vanilla sweetness hits you first, quickly followed by huge Cognac notes. That Germain-Robin has done a real number here. The finish is all raisins, Sugar Babies, plums, and a chocolate finish. It’s got very little resemblance to any conventional whiskey on the market, which is a good and a bad thing. Anyone walking into Low Gap expecting a light version of Maker’s Mark is going to be in for a real shock. But who doesn’t like trying something new? 84 proof. B+ / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

craftdistillers.com

Review: Hooker’s House Bourbon and Rye

hookers house bourbon 125x300 Review: Hookers House Bourbon and RyeColor me a bit of a skeptic. Hooker’s House label declares these whiskeys as “Sonoma Style,” as in the California wine country. Where they do not make whiskey. Right? Heck, HelloCello (aka Prohibition Spirits) — best known for its artisanal lemoncello (and other flavors) — makes this whiskey. What on earth do these guys know about Bourbon? How good could it possibly be?

Plenty. And pretty good, it turns out.

Named after a Civil War veteran, Joseph Hooker, who lived in Sonoma, these whiskeys are not actually distilled in California (the company cites only “Bourbon-belt” production; I’m presuming they are born at LDI like pretty much everything else on the market). But Hooker’s House Bourbon and Rye, like many of my favorite craft whiskeys, are decidedly non-traditional spirits: Both are finished in (different) wine barrels that have been retired from local wineries.

That, I guess, it was “Sonoma Style” is all about. And you can count me a full-on convert.

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Review: Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye and Bourbon Whiskey

Finger Lakes Distilling operates out of, you guessed it, the Finger Lakes region of New York, well known as an up-and-coming wine region but also a hotbed of craft distilleries, too. Finger Lakes makes two young whiskeys which we recently put to the taste test.  Both are 91 proof.

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey 200x300 Review: Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye and Bourbon WhiskeyMcKenzie Bourbon Whiskey – Double-pot distilled from a mashbill of 70% local, heirloom corn (the rest is reportedly 20% rye, 10% malted barley). Aged in 10-gallon, new charred barrels (for unspecified time; reportedly 18 months) and finished in casks that held local Chardonnay. First impressions: There’s lots of wood here, with a hearty corn character to back it up. The grain notes are quite straightforward, and the bigger body — driven by the Chardonnay finish, perhaps — is a help considering the relative lack of sweetness. There’s some glimmers of excitement here, with some interesting incense and raisin notes, but the hefty sawdust character on the finish is a bit too close to the lumberyard for my taste. Batch 09/2012. B- / $56 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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Review: Georgetown Trading Co. Pow-Wow Botanical Rye

pow wow botanical rye 116x300 Review: Georgetown Trading Co. Pow Wow Botanical RyeFrom Georgetown Trading Company (the importer of the masterful John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey), comes this extreme oddity — a flavored/infused rye whiskey.

Flavored whiskeys are growing in popularity as a category, but they’re mainly Bourbon or Irish, and honey and cinnamon are the predominant flavoring agents. Pow-Wow Botanical Rye is a straight rye whiskey that’s infused with saffron, orange peel, and other whole botanicals (not oils or other flavoring agents), which makes it doubly unique in the world o’ whiskey. (The specific mashbill is not specified, nor is the barrel aging program; the whiskey is warehoused in Kentucky.) Continue reading

Review: WhistlePig “TripleOne” 111 Straight Rye Whiskey

whistlepig 111 300x300 Review: WhistlePig TripleOne 111 Straight Rye Whiskey Since its release two years ago, WhistlePig has garnered a well-deserved reputation for producing one of the best 100% rye whiskeys in the biz — spicy, yet sweet and balanced. Now the company has upped the ante, with a slightly older (11 years instead of 10 years) and slightly hotter (111 proof instead of 100 proof) spin on the original. One feels that if WhistlePig could have figured out a way to squeeze 111% rye into the bottle instead of 100%, it would’ve.)

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Review: Journeyman Ravenswood Rye Whiskey

journeyman rye 130x300 Review: Journeyman Ravenswood Rye WhiskeyJourneyman Distillery operates in Three Oaks, Michigan, where it makes a wide range of white spirits and this rye, its only “brown” liquor at present (though numerous more are on the way).

Formerly made at the Koval Distillery, Journeyman is now making it at home. The mashbill is an unusual blend of Minnesota rye and (heavy) Michigan wheat, no corn. It is aged for an unstated amount of time in 15-gallon new oak barrels, then bottled at 90 proof.

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Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop-Up Tour, October 2012

whistepig 111 300x224 Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop Up Tour, October 2012Our friends at Domaine Select Wine Estates (which handles a lot more than wine) are on the road, “popping up” in a half-dozen cities to let their producers show off their wares. I recently dropped in on the San Francisco installment to experience a few wines that were new to me (1982 Borgogno Barolo, yes please) and some spirits, including a line of Armagnacs from Castarede that are slowly making their way to the States, and WhistlePig’s new limited edition “111” Rye Whiskey. Notes follow!

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2012

Another sold-out show this year for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and yet it didn’t feel overly crowded. I missed out on some of the whispered highlights by arriving late, when the rarities were all gone. (John Hansell has some coverage, which I hope to catch up with in coming months.) Otherwise, good times all around. While the absence of a few standbys – Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Compass Box – was grumbled about, I don’t think you can raise a complaint about the quality of spirits on tap.

Brief notes follow (made more difficult by the fact that my pen simply would not write on the glossy brochure provided this year). I made sure to sample some more widely available whiskeys I hadn’t tried in years (Elijah Craig 12, Balvenie 12), for comparative purposes.

Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2012

Scotch

Gordon & MacPhail Glenburgie 21 Years Old / B+ / huge nose, lots of grain, chew finish
Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet 21 Years Old / A / apple pie, with both the crust and cinnamon/spice notes
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Clynelish 1993 / A- / unique, lots of malt, big body
Gordon & MacPhail Benromach Organic / B+ / heavy on the grassiness
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Tormore 1996 15 Years Old / B+ / big banana notes, apple character
Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old / A- / tasted as a comparative to the new 17 year old DoubleWood; a perfect everyday Scotch
Oban 18 Years Old / A- / wonderful peat/sweet balance
Old Pulteney 17 Years Old / A- / drinking well, very rich
Old Pulteney 30 Years Old / B+ / showing more grain character, oddly
Chieftain’s Glenturret 21 Year Old Cask Strength / A / brisk
GlenDronach 18 Years Old Allardice / B+ / raisin notes
GlenDronach 21 Years Old Parliament / B+ / similar, with a toffee character; bitter edge
BenRiach 1995 Pedro Ximinez Cask #2045 / A- / lots of peat at work
Bruichladdich Black Art 3 / A / cherry, nougat, lots of depth; very different than other Black Art bottling
Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 / A / absolutely gorgeous, wood and nougat in balance
Samaroli Caol Ila 1980 / B+
Samaroli Linkwood 1983 / A / peat, sweet, great combo
Samaroli Glenburgie 1989 / A-
Samaroli Bunnahabhain 1990 / A / dusky earthiness
Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve / C / an ultra-young Scotch, lots of brash, cooked cereal notes
Glen Grant 16 Years Old / B / basic, simple

United States

St. George Spirits Barrel Strength Bourbon / A / 62.5 percent abv, distilled in 2005; burly and big, delicious
Lost Spirits Leviathan 1 Cast 7 / B+ / fire and brimstone
Lost Spirits Paradiso / A- / a brutally peated version of Leviathan, with a hint of absinthe in the finish; entire stock has been sold to Germany
Redemption Rye / A / lovely mix of spice and wood (3 years old)
Redemption Rye 14 Years Old (private barrel) / B+ / from private stock; the wood punches out the rye
Koval Organic 47th Ward / B / cereal finish
Koval Organic Raksi Dark Millet / B+ / smoldering and chewy
Hudson Baby Bourbon / A- / lots of wood, drinking well despite a corniness
Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Small Batch Bourbon / A- / lots of wood, but drinking nicely
Four Roses Yellow Label / B- / very hot and tight
Four Roses Single Barrel / A
Four Roses Small Batch / A-

Other World Whiskies

Sullivan’s Cove Small Batch Single Cask / B- / aged in ex-Beam barrels; lots of heat, tight
Sullivan’s Cove Small Batch Double Cask / B / lots of grain, big field notes
Canadian Club Sherry Cask / A- / very sweet, pretty
Nikka Taketsuru 12 Years Old / A / two offerings from Japan, coming soon to the U.S.; a vatted malt; quite sweet
Nikka Yoichi 15 Years Old / A / more smoke here, very rich, outstanding

Cognac

HINE Homage / B+ / a blend of 1984, 86, and 87 spirit; good balance
HINE H / B+ / traditional, lots of sugary notes
HINE Antique / A / lush, powerful, a great old Cognac
Frapin Cognac VS / B+
Frapin Cognac Chateau de Fontpinot XO / A-
Frapin Cognac VIP XO / A
Frapin Cognac Extra / A-

Review: George Dickel Rye Whiskey

DG RyeWhisky 250x300 Review: George Dickel Rye WhiskeyEveryone is getting in on the rye game, and the latest to join the party is George Dickel, which has crafted this whiskey from 95% rye and 5% malted barley, then aged it for five-plus years. Sourced from Indiana (where plenty of rye is being produced for just about everyone), it’s still made to Tennessee whiskey specifications: Chilled, filtered through charcoal, then bottled at 90 proof.

As with Dickel’s corn-based whiskeys, Dickel Rye is very silky smooth, that “charcoal mellowing” having done its duty admirably. But there’s ample rye character here — chewy raisin bread with ample cinnamon notes. Vanilla a-plenty. Cocoa powder finish. Overall, the body is light and easygoing, a pleasant and sweet rye that would work well in any cocktail.

Compare to Bulleit Rye.

Shipping in November 2012.

A- / $25 / dickel.com

Review: Jack Daniel’s Unaged Tennessee Rye

How do you know when white whiskey has become a Big Thing? When Jack Daniel’s, the largest spirits brand in the world, gets into the game.

By way of backstory, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 uses a fairly traditional Bourbon-style* mashbill, 80% corn, the other 20% rye and malted barley. This is the way it has been, and (undoubtedly) the way it shall always be.

But that doesn’t mean JD can’t make other products. Gentleman Jack is charcoal filtered twice instead of just once, like Old No. 7 is, for example. Not a big difference, but it’s something.

Now JD is working on its biggest line extension since Prohibition, with its first wholly new mashbill: an honest-to-god rye whiskey. Made of 70 percent rye, 18 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley, it’s unlike anything JD has ever offered before.

It’s also not going to be ready for a few years.

JD is taking an interesting step in deciding not to wait until 2015 or so to release its new whiskey and is instead giving the unaged version a limited release. You’re reading this correctly: For its next trick, JD is releasing a white whiskey based on this future product. This is actually the first time I’ve ever heard of this being done, but it makes sense, a kind of sneak preview of a whiskey to come.

Looking at JD Unaged Rye as it stands today, you won’t find any massive surprises or departure from the current state of white whiskeys. Lots of grain on the nose, very raw, and typical of unaged whiskey no matter what the mashbill is. The body is surprisingly mild, and the funkiness of most white whiskeys is almost absent here. Instead, touches of chocolate (cocoa powder), coconut, and some tropical notes, particularly banana, dominate. The finish is smooth and light, almost harmless — that JD charcoal mellowing process really does strip out a lot of the more unpleasant flavors. The overall effect is interesting, but it’s honestly far from earth shattering.

The biggest problem with this is that Jack is suggesting a $50 price tag for this 80-proof spirit, which puts it at roughly three times the price of a bottle of JD that’s spent years in a barrel. That would also suggest that, once this rye comes out of barrel for its official, aged release, it should cost on the order of $75 or more. Both of those are crazy ideas, and I suspect that calmer heads will prevail such that Jack Daniel’s Rye (or whatever it’s called), when it’s finally released, won’t hit more than $25 or $30 at your local liquor store.

That aside, how can you get it? Per the company: Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye is scheduled to be available in December at select retail outlets throughout Tennessee including the White Rabbit Bottle Shop at the Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center in Lynchburg, Tenn.  In January 2013, it will be available in limited quantities in other select markets throughout the U.S.

Update: Reader Matt Bradford says JD expects to sell the new whiskey beginning (around) December 15, 2012.

* I know, JD isn’t Bourbon.

B+ / $50 / jackdaniels.com

jack daniels unaged rye Review: Jack Daniels Unaged Tennessee Rye

Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012 Edition

There are a few things you can count on in the whiskey world, and one of them is the annual release of Buffalo Trace’s always-anticipated Antique Collection, a compilation of five very old and very rare American whiskeys that pretty much sell out immediately once they land on store shelves. (I’ve seen bars where these whiskeys are locked up behind iron grates.)

Here’s how the five whiskeys of the 2012 Collection stack up.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old – Big rye on the nose, with some honeysuckle in the mix. The body is sweet, with touches of tobacco. More wood develops with time in the glass, and a splash of water. Lots of tannin on the finish, all that time in wood leaving behind a lot of dusty sawdust character. Water helps. 90 proof (as always). 90 proof. B+

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon – Very sweet, almost no woodiness for a 17-year-old Bourbon. Quite a bit of citrus under the caramel notes, I don’t get the “dry and delicate” character that the distillery describes in its official notes, but rather a classic whiskey with just a touch of tawny port character on the finish. Scarily drinkable though less complex than I might like. 90 proof. A-

George T. Stagg Bourbon – Chocolate and coffee notes a-plenty in this classic heater — 142.8 proof this year. Plenty of wood on the mid-palate, but it’s not overly hoary like the 2011 edition. A warming, sweet finish brings everything together. Make no mistake, this is hot, old whiskey — 17 years old for the 2012 bottling — but complex, burly, and quite delicious. A-

William Larue Weller Bourbon –At “just” 123.4 proof, this year’s Weller is a lower-proof baby compared to previous renditions. Less exciting on the nose, this wheated Bourbon is mild, ultimately exhibiting some licorice and nutty, tree-bark flavors. Tannic and drying on the finish, even with water. 12 years old. B

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye – Definitely my least favorite of this year’s collection. The nose is innocuous, hinting at dark cherry character alongside cinnamon and some cocoa notes. The body, however, veers into somewhat overpowering astringency. Though just 6 years old, the woodiness is pungent and overbearing, leaving behind an oily, sawdust-driven finish that hangs around for a long, long time. It opens up with time in glass, but the overall effect just doesn’t come together the way it should. 132.4 proof. B-

about $70 each / greatbourbon.com

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012 Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012 Edition

Review: Col. E.H. Taylor Rye Whiskey

Buffalo Trace’s Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. brand continues rolling along with this fifth expression, a bottled-in-bond rye.

The mashbill is interesting and unusual: Only rye and malted barley, no corn. The proportion of each isn’t disclosed, but it’s definitely heavy on the rye.

At 100 proof (like all bottled-in-bond whiskey is), it’s surprisingly hot. I was generous with the water to help bring out this rye’s character, though it dilutes the pretty amber color.

The nose offers classic rye notes: Lots of spice, with no restraint at all in its brashness. That’s not bad. I like rye to taste like a real rye. It’s sweet, but with lots of power backing it up and a long finish. Taylor has that, and water doesn’t impact that body at all (just tones down the alcohol burn). Lots of character to go around: Orange-infused caramel quickly fades and leaps into flavors of red pepper, rhubarb, strawberries, and cinnamon, then fades into an orange-flower honey finish. Great balance, with many layers.

My sample bottle was emptied well before my experience of this whiskey was, a rarity in a world where so many spirits wear their character on their sleeve.

100 proof.

A- / $70 / buffalotrace.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

E.H. Taylor Rye Review: Col. E.H. Taylor Rye Whiskey

Review: Knob Creek Rye Whiskey

Part of the Jim Beam family, the overproof Knob Creek has always been a go-to Bourbon when you wanted something a bit beefier, when the week has finally caught up with you — and yet which still exuded quality.

And now you can get the kick in the form of a rye, with Knob Creek Rye launching nationally this month. A purported blend of ryes up to nine years old, there’s no data on the mashbill here, whether it’s all rye or a corn blend (my guess).

At 100 proof, Knob Creek has always been a bit boozy, and the Rye is similar. Big alcoholic vapor notes coming off the ruddy amber whiskey attack the senses when freshly poured, requiring a few minutes to let them blow off.

Once they do, Knob Creek Rye reveals big cherry notes, some racy grain character, and hints of sawdust, especially in the nose. You get the spice on the finish, a burn in the back of the throat not caused by the alcohol, a warming character that almost speaks of menthol, but which also offers vanilla in the denouement.

The more I sip on this, the more I get a dusty wood component in the nose. This isn’t unpleasant, but it does give this rye more of a rustic character than you might expect. And then that vanilla sweetness kicks in again, inviting another sip. Good stuff.

A- / $40 / knobcreek.com

knob creek rye Review: Knob Creek Rye Whiskey

Review: Jailers Tennessee Whiskey, Breakout Rye, and Forbidden Secret Cream Liqueur

Today we look at three new whiskey products brought to us by  a new company, the Tennessee Spirits Company, a division of Capital Brands. Formed by a group of spirits industry veterans, the focus here is (obviously) on Tennessee whiskeys, with this trilogy the inaugural releases.

TSC doesn’t have its own distillery (yet) but plans to build one, including a visitor’s center. These three spirits are obviously private-label creations for now (one doesn’t just start a business and sell an 8-year-old rye the next day), and it will probably take a few stabs at this to hit the right groove while that distillery gets up and running.

Jailers Premium Tennessee Whiskey – A mashbill of 80% corn plus assorted rye and malted barley go into this whiskey, which is double distilled, steeped in maple chips, then aged for 4 to 5 years in charred white oak barrels. It is chill-filtered and bottled at 86 proof. Very fruity, it’s got distinct macerated Bing cherry character, then the wood — charred cherrywood — comes along after a bit. This is a hot whiskey with a moderate body, quite sharp, with a warming finish. It’s a Tennessee whiskey that’s hard to peg: It’s not the easy drinker of, say, Jack Daniel’s, but there’s so much fruit here it’s hard not to imagine it in a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. B+ / $25

Breakout American Rye Whiskey – A mashbill of 51%-plus rye (plus corn and malted barley) goes into a double-distilled whiskey that is put into white oak barrels for eight years. Like Jailers, it’s bottled at 86 proof. This is a tricky and unexpected rye. Malty and dusty, this has the distinct character of a whiskey that’s spent too long in wood. Some buttery toffee character lives on the nose, but it’s quickly subsumed by all that wood, coming together with a bit of a sawdust character. In the end Breakout just doesn’t have a great rye body to it, and the whiskey doesn’t ever come together the way it should. C+ / $45

Forbidden Secret Dark Mocha American Cream – A Bailey’s clone, though the “artificial liqueur” label on the bottle doesn’t instill confidence. Essentially this is a blend of Jailers Whiskey, cream, chocolate, and espresso, and it tastes like you think it does: Sweet, creamy, and and much like a boozy version of something you’d order at Starbucks. All the elements listed above are here, in a pretty good balance. If you like whiskey/cream liqueurs, you’ll dig this one, “artificial” or no. 30 proof.  A- / $25

tennesseespiritscompany.com

tennessee spirits company Review: Jailers Tennessee Whiskey, Breakout Rye, and Forbidden Secret Cream Liqueur

Review: Pendleton 1910 Aged 12 Years Canadian Rye Whisky

With 1910 Pendleton (based in Hood River, Oregon) takes its Canadian whisky upmarket, bottling this 100% rye after a lengthy 12 years in oak. (The name is a reference to the first ever Pendleton Round-Up rodeo, which took place 102 years ago.)

I’ve previously discussed the standard, blended Pendleton bottling as overwhelmingly sweet, but things are more mellow with this expression. Intensely fruity, it offers lots of thick cherry notes, orange marmalade, and well-integrated spice throughout. Sweetness is still there in the form of a bit of butterscotch syrup, but it’s not overwhelming in the way regular Pendleton is.

Good balance and a strong but not overpowering body. Surprisingly mellow finish considering this is a 100% rye spirit.

80 proof.

A- / $40 / hrdspirits.com

pendleton 1910 Review: Pendleton 1910 Aged 12 Years Canadian Rye Whisky

Review: Wild Turkey Rye 81 Proof

Following on the release of its lower-proof Wild Turkey 81 Proof Bourbon, Wild Turkey is at it again, releasing a new Wild Turkey Rye at 81 proof. Wild Turkey makes a 101 proof Rye at present, but this is not widely available and in fact I’ve never tried it. In fact WT says that a recent run on rye has left WT Rye 101 largely out of stock. However, you will find the distillery’s Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye far more commonly available.

This rye comes in at a relatively youthful 4 to 5 years old (though WT calls this “extra-aged”), and it’s aged in deep “alligator” char barrels. The exact mashbill is not disclosed, but I would wager this is not much over the 50% mark in rye, with corn making up the rest.

Much like Russell’s Reserve Rye, this is a sweet and not overly “spicy” rendition of the grain. With that characteristic Wild Turkey apple and cherry character, with lots of vanilla on the finish along with that woody, charcoal character you’d expect from a whisky aged in heavy-char barrels like this. Plenty of cinnamon throughout the body, the only real hint that you’re in the rye world here.

Tasted blind, I would bet that most tasters would peg this as a young Bourbon, and that’s not intended as a slight. This is a mild and smooth whiskey that would be just dandy in a Manhattan — but maybe not man enough for a Sazerac.

B / $23 / wildturkeybourbon.com

wild turkey rye 81 proof Review: Wild Turkey Rye 81 Proof

 

 

Review: Willett Single Barrel Rye 3 Years Old

No big ceremony here: I can’t find much info on the mashbill (or anything else, really) for this whiskey, but I found this little Kentucky gem at Costco for all of $32.99.

A really young, high-proof rye (110 proof), this lil’ upstart demands water and plenty of it. Without agua it’s just too brash (not to mention alco-fueled) to get a real handle on. Bring it down to a temperate level, though, and you’ll find lots to love: Big, candied orange notes, tangerine almost, caramel sweetness on the back end, plus honeycomb and toffee. But oranges over everything.

For all it has to offer, this is still a very young rye, which is no more evident than in its relatively thin body, which fades away far too quickly. Lovely character. Would love to see this rye’s power at 5 or 6 years.

Reviewed: Bottle #9, lot #33/170.

B+ / $33 / kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com