Based out of Colorado Springs, Distillery 291 has built their reputation on bourbon, rye, and unaged distillate releases, and their aged products are often finished with toasted aspen staves. (We’ve reviewed a number of their rye and bourbon expressions before.) With a new limited release, the company is exploring a 100% rye malt mash bill for the first time — again, with that trademark aspen finish.
Batch #1 of the distillery’s 100% Rye Malt Colorado Whiskey is made up of 50% Colorado Malted Rye and 50% German Rye Malt. (In a nod to 1990s cinephiles, the release is also referred to as “All Rye, All Rye, All Rye.”) The non-age stated whiskey was then finished with toasted aspen staves and bottled at 132.6 proof.
Distillery 291 is releasing just 1,000 bottles of this first-of-its-kind expression, with a price tag of $105. Let’s dive in.
I’m not the biggest fan of equating color with flavor, but I have to note this is a strikingly dark pour, bordering on some 24+ year rye expressions I’ve tried in the past. On the nose, there’s a big herbal pop, with dill, wintergreen, and freshly picked mint dominating. Nosing again gives some more herbal but less pronounced notes that are a bit darker: black tea especially. There’s also a peppery note that moves back and forth with cedar. Some light, sweeter characteristics are present as well, notably cinnamon sugar; this could be reminiscent of a famous, heavily-advertised breakfast cereal from decades past.
I’ve never chewed on an aspen wood stave, but the very first sip probably imitates that closely. Deep wood flavors come through, but they’re certainly not leaning toward oak, rather something more pungent and fragrant, akin to cinnamon sticks. It’s intense and, at the very beginning, borderline overpowering. The herbal/dill notes on the nose give way to something deeper and savory here, muddled herbs and chopped parsley. It’s a spicy, herbal, peppery mix, which very, very slowly transitions into a thick sweet tea. (A welcome reprieve.)
Revisiting with a couple drops of water is worth your while here. Slight dilution brings out fruitier characteristics, along with butterscotch, making for an altogether sweeter sip that isn’t so dominated by the additional and novel wood influence.
On the finish and without the addition of water, there are pronounced flavors of both basil pesto and cotton candy. It’s a savory-and-sweet interplay that gradually gives way to a unique cooling spearmint sensation. Again, a few drops help tame the intense wood and mint flavors. This helps bring welcome balance and sweetness while maintaining that noticeable and unique spearmint.
Distillery 291’s All Rye is unapologetically bold, benefiting from time in the glass and two (or more) drops of water to calm the intensity of additional wood influence that’s coupled with rye spice. It’s the rare special release that may actually have benefited from proofing down before bottling.
If you’re interested in exploring mighty flavors and not afraid to experiment with a little home dilution, there’s a lot to appreciate. Here, that right balance will vary from one drinker to the next. This is a pour that stands on its own ground, and it could push experienced palates into new territory. Expect it to push yours.
B+ / $105 / distillery291.com