Review: Bhakta Rye 2013

Review: Bhakta Rye 2013

Bhakta 2013 Rye

Raj Bhakta founded WhistlePig and helped (re)popularize rye among American consumers. With Bhakta, his eponymous second act in spirits, Raj has leaned into highly aged brandy, rum, blends, and bourbon.

It turns out, it was only a matter of time before a full-on rye release was back on the table.

Announced in January 2024, Bhakta 2013 Straight Rye Whiskey is 10 year, 8 month-old MGP rye finished in Calvados casks (of which Bhakta’s team has seemingly plenty to choose from). It clocks in at 107.6 proof and is bottled in Vermont. According to the brand, around 800 cases in total will be released. At $149, it’s edging into very premium territory for rye whiskey — a trend Bhakta himself largely pioneered in the WhistlePig days.

The company bills the release as “Raj’s return to rye”; let’s see how it stacks up!

On the nose, deep rye spice pairs with a series of funky, fruity notes for an aroma set that makes triangulating specifics a little tough. (But we’re always up for a challenge!) Nutmeg, allspice, green apple skins, candied ginger, pecan pie, and fresh puff pastry are all present. The nose is equal parts spiced fruit and bready confection. There’s also a tiny hint of sulfur at the very back of those aromas, which is quickly overcome by tart apple. At least on the nose, brandy has done a bit more than simply kiss this rye.

While Calvados bookends a conga line on the nose, the palate is all about that 10-plus year MGP rye. Familiar herbal dill, parsley, spearmint, and even sage flow across the tongue hand-in-hand with baking spices. This 2013 vintage rye doesn’t lean quite as heavily into the green, herbaceous notes as some similarly-aged 95/5 I’ve sampled recently, perhaps moderated in part by the brandy finish. (And, one could theorize, barrel selection.) The more restrained pop of herbal freshness allows sweetness from both the grain and wood to shine all the more clearly.

Calvados makes a reappearance on the finish, the brandy contributing to a sweetness beyond what this rye might otherwise be capable of. Paired with the lingering rye spice, it’s close to unfiltered apple cider. But that sweetness dissipates rather quickly, the cider notes leaning drier than anticipated, leaving a phantom of apple brandy behind. At the very end, a surprising uptick in ethanol leads to a hotter-than-expected final note.

Bhakta 2013 invites on the nose and dances on the tongue. It’s a downright delicious dram, with a mildly inconsistent finish keeping it from soaring even higher. Though we didn’t get to sample the unfinished whiskey for this release, it seems Bhakta’s finish added another dimension to an already presumably good rye. With whiskey back on the board, we’ll be paying close attention.

107.6 proof.

A- / $149 /

Bhakta Rye 2013




David Tao is a writer for Drinkhacker.

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