This fall, Catoctin Creek released Hot Honey Rye, the first permanent addition to the small craft distillery’s core range in over five years. First introduced as a limited Barrel Select offering in 2022, this flavored whiskey is now slated for the big leagues with distribution to all of Catoctin Creek’s mid-Atlantic markets, as well as a handful of other states. What we can expect from this one, per the distillery’s co-founders:
“When you take our beautiful, potstilled 100% rye whisky, and you add three types of local Virginia honey (wildflower, clover, and buckwheat) and an infusion of chile peppers, you get something amazing,” said Becky Harris, Founder, President, and Chief Distiller. “Because we use real honey, the aroma and flavor of honey are dominant in this whisky, and the honey gives a very pleasant viscosity/mouth feel.” Scott Harris, Founder and General Manager, added, “Just as you’re savoring the whisky, the peppers come in with a surprising and delightful bit of heat.”
There’s also a charitable component to this release with a dollar from every bottle sold being donated to local and national organizations that focus on bee conservation. Let’s see if this is a bottle to buzz about. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)
The bees would certainly love it. And anyone with a serious sweet (or spicy) tooth. The aroma kicks off with a thick, raw honey sweetness. It’s not cloying but comes close with rich simple syrup and honey candy notes. Underneath all that sticky sweetness is a welcome dash of rye spice, green pepper, and toasty oak, which builds as it opens in the glass with a lacing of campfire smoke. While that evolution helps to pull the aroma out of liqueur territory, the palate lands more squarely in that camp. Thick and viscous on the tongue, it’s initially dominated by notes of treacle and heavily honeyed black tea. The mouthfeel endures but the candy sweetness subsides somewhat, yielding to a big rush of prickly chili pepper heat that gently singes the back of the throat and moves progressively up the tongue to the lips with a lingering, peppery warmth. It’s a bit hard to find the rye in it all, but it’s there in the gaps between sweet and spice with Catoctin Creek’s trademark toasted cereals and fresh oak, hints of which join honeycomb and Hot Tamales on the syrupy finish.
As flavored whiskeys go, Hot Honey Rye is a step above most owing to the quality of both the flavoring ingredients and the base spirit. Sip it. Shoot it. Personally, I would try it in a cocktail.
B+ / $55 / catoctincreekdistilling.com