Best known for their highly-aged brandy, Raj Bhakta’s eponymous spirits brand is making moves into other categories, including whiskey. They released an Armagnac-cask finished bourbon earlier in 2023, and they’ve also dabbled in rum. Now, they’re mixing up something different altogether: a blended spirits that’s 60 percent rye whiskey, 30 percent Calvados, and 10 percent Armagnac. Dubbed “Bhakta 1928,” the bottling is named for the oldest vintage in the blend and also includes Armagnac from 1941, 1962, and 1973.
The base is an American rye whiskey sourced from MGP and distilled in 2018. The final product is finished in virgin French oak. While the brand isn’t revealing complete details, they state 30 percent of the spirits in the Bhakta 1928 blend are over 30 years old.
It’s a fairly bold experiment in cross-category bottling, and the final product is 50 percent abv. Let’s dive in.
The pour is rye-forward on the nose with heavy oak influence, and if I didn’t know better, I could be convinced this was a 15+ year old rye whiskey; the influence from the Calvados and Armagnac are heavier than their 40 percent proportion. There’s a touch of green apple peel as well as light notes of champagne grapes, caramel, vanilla extract, and chocolate covered pecans.
A first sip is immediately but subtly sweet, a light pan caramel that gradually becomes darker and more pronounced as it expands across the palate. Light spice is up next, cinnamon and nutmeg, before the rye notes transition to dried citrus, pear, and oaky fruit. There’s character from the older brandy, but it’s mouthwatering instead of drying. It’s not the deepest of flavors from Bhakta’s stocks that I’ve tried, but it adds a mature undercurrent to the rye I wish was slightly more pronounced. The finish is fruity, sweet, and lightly tannic, pear taking center stage and gradually dissipating to oak.