Review: Union Horse Distilling Rivalist Single Malt and Reunion Rye

Review: Union Horse Distilling Rivalist Single Malt and Reunion Rye

You’ll find Union Horse Distilling in Lenexa, Kansas (near Kansas City), where it’s been putting out whiskeys of all stripes — bourbon, rye, single malt, and more — for 14 years (plus vodka). This is our first encounter with the operation; today we look at two of the company’s current five releases. Bottles are hand-numbered with batch and bottle number — plus the initials of “crafter” Patrick Garcia.

Let’s dig in.

Union Horse Distilling Rivalist American Single Malt Whiskey – Rivalist has been in the works for seven years at Union Horse, made with three different styles of malted barley — odyssey, chocolate, and caramel — which is aged in new American oak barrels for 4-plus years. It’s quite unique on the nose, even for the far-from-standardized American single malt world. Toasty and leathery on the nose, there’s ample char up front, but it’s complemented by a surprisingly sweet quality — butterscotch with lemon curd — followed by a fistful of florals. Equally toasty on the palate, the whiskey offers a heft that’s outsized for an ASM, with notes of toasted walnuts, tobacco leaf, and some funky terpene flavors. Again some sweetness comes to the rescue — more butterscotch, vanilla, and pastry cream — but the barrel has had its way with this spirit a bit too much, leaving it tannic and big on both char and biting camphor, which make all those delicate malts much too difficult to parse. A bit of chocolate on the finish is a nice touch, though. 96 proof. Reviewed: Batch #4. B / $58

Union Horse Distilling Reunion Straight Rye Whiskey – A 100% straight rye, 5-plus years old. It’s funny to taste a 100% rye that is less bold than a 100% malt whiskey from the same distiller… but here we are. Reunion has much of the expected nose — big greenery, charred wood, nostril-searing spice — but it’s tempered by notes of dark chocolate, sweet cream, and some exotic brown banana character. Surprisingly tame on the palate, the whiskey offers an immediate sweetness you don’t often see in rye, especially 100% rye. More banana, creamy vanilla custard, and gingerbread notes all percolate together to create a shockingly festive and refreshing experience. The grassy herbaceousness of the rye is more evident on the finish, but even here it is gentle and well integrated with the sweeter, fruitier notes that precede it. The slightly overproof abv feels just about perfect considering the overall profile. Surprisingly well-made stuff that would be at home in a Sazerac, or as a solo sipper. 93 proof. Reviewed: Batch #43. A- / $81

Union Horse Distilling Rivalist American Single Malt Whiskey




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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