After Stoli Group took over, Kentucky Owl Rye became the more affordable (but still pricey) offering from this cult Kentucky brand. If you lived anywhere but the Bluegrass State (where even the bourbon was exceptionally scarce), it was the only Kentucky Owl product you had much of a chance at finding. We reviewed a few of the earliest releases (Batch 1 and Batch 2) before the decision was made to discontinue the line in 2020 due to dwindling stocks. In 2021, under the new Wiseman label, Kentucky Owl released a more budget friendly, non-age-stated, and much more widely available bourbon, but there was no mention of a rye until just recently when this bottle appeared in the portfolio. It’s a Kentucky-distilled rye (reportedly distilled at Bardstown Bourbon Co.) made from a 95% rye mashbill, aged for at least four years, and bottled at just a touch over 100 proof. Like the bourbon, production of this whiskey was overseen by Kentucky Owl Master Blender John Rhea. Let’s give it a go, shall we?
Soft and approachable, even at a bigger-than-normal proof, the added alcohol nevertheless propels a hefty and complex aroma. Golden, grassy rye spice, buttery caramel candies, subtle dill, and a bit of bright lemon peel all come together in fine balance with a milk chocolate note that grows as things open up in the glass. The palate is a bit greener with bigger, vegetal dill notes balanced against sticky toffee and some dry spice cabinet, heavy on the clove and anise. The oak is also a bit dusty with some mild astringency into the finish that distracts from the easier balance at the front of the palate. In the end, this one turns out to be a fairly straightforward and well-constructed rye whiskey, in need of a little more age to make it a good sipper but definitely bold and flavorful enough for an elevated cocktail.
B+ / $60