While we’ve covered several special releases from Virginia’s Catoctin Creek, including the bizarre and bold Ragnarok Rye and a Bottled in Bond commemorating their first decade of distilling, we’ve never actually looked at the distillery’s core portfolio. Today, we correct that. Outside of a gin and several small production brandies, the standard lineup at Catoctin Creek is all 100% rye whisky packaged under the Roundstone Rye label as three different single barrel offerings: standard Roundstone Rye, Distiller’s Edition, and Cask Proof. According to Catoctin Creek’s husband-and-wife distilling duo, Scott and Becky Harris, each offering is the same Roundstone Rye DNA, just showcased at a different proof. Thoughts on each follow.
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye – The aroma is initially dominated by a slightly rubbery wood-driven element, but as things open, more charred oak comes to the fore, with dusty notes of pecan shells, torched marshmallows, and dark cocktail cherries. It’s a big aroma for the proof and only grows more engaging with time in the glass. The palate is even more of a walk through the lumberyard with subtler secondary notes of apple sauce, warm oatmeal, and a bit of maple syrup. There’s a little more body here than the proof would suggest, but things are still rather light and thin with a bit of latent black pepper spice adding the only flourish to an otherwise gentle and simple conclusion. 80 proof. B- / $45 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Distiller’s Edition – Only a tenth of the Catoctin Creek rye inventory gets selected for this bottling. I wouldn’t say it’s any punchier than the lower proof sibling, but there’s definitely a more consistent barrel-driven element in the aroma. That said, those wood notes show more balance and better integration, presenting in alternating waves of dark baking chocolate and toasted sugar with a thick accent of split vanilla bean. The palate sees a similarly improved harmony of flavors with notes of burnt chocolate chip cookies, cigar box, and dusty baking spices. The finish is warming with generous black pepper and a bit of black licorice. 92 proof. B+ / $53 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Cask Proof – This is the rarest Roundstone offering, released roughly twice a year. Again, the nose isn’t nearly as robust as I might expect for the proof, but this time the added octane has given the aroma a more mature quality with notes of furniture polish and saddle leather. The oak is surprisingly balanced at cask proof, coming across as cedar closet and sandalwood with secondary notes of vanilla custard and apple chips. The palate is bold and spicy with early, honeyed notes of pie spice, licorice, and lemon oil. In quick turn, burly oak notes emerge with a punchy astringency that overpowers other elements and then kicks into high gear on the finish, drying things out in a lip puckering wave of sawdust, fresh ground pepper, and cinnamon sticks. A good straight sipper for those who like a woody bruiser. Better over ice or as the base in a true craft cocktail. 116 proof (varies slightly from cask to cask). B / $90 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]