Review: One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey and Untitled Whiskey No. 3

Several distilleries have opened in the nation’s capital in recent years, but only One Eight Distilling can claim to have in their Rock Creek Rye the first grain to glass whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in the District since prohibition. Also in their sizable portfolio are several quality non-barrel-aged spirits, including Ivy City Gin, and a host of sourced whiskeys released through their Untitled series that showcase various experiments with different finishes and proofs.

As the first distillery to bring whiskey back to DC, you wouldn’t expect One Eight to be satisfied with just a rye. Later this fall, they’ll release their own bourbon with plans to introduce single malt into their line-up in the near future. Drinkhacker got its hands on a sample of Rock Creek Rye along with a sample of one of the more unique whiskeys in the Untitled series. Thoughts follow.

One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey – The nose on this whiskey has a fair amount of toasted cereal owing probably to the high amount of malted rye in the mashbill. There’s a little spearmint in there, as well, and notes of lemony floor polish and honeydew melon. There’s minimal spice or heat on the nose and none of the grassiness typical of younger rye whiskey. It drinks almost like a bourbon, and a nicely balanced one at that. There’s a little raw honey on the front palate followed by some spice, more lemon, and savory baked grain notes — almost like banana bread with a bit of walnut in it. The spice shows up more on the tail end, and cinnamon and vanilla bean round out a gentle, warming finish. In the increasingly crowded world of craft rye whiskey, this one has a lot going for it. 94 proof. A- / $50

One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No. 3 – This whiskey is one of the more interesting in the growing Untitled line-up, and it displays some real creativity. It’s a product of collaboration with DC-based coffee roasters Vigilante Coffee who provided the roasted coffee beans to fill the finishing barrel for an undisclosed amount of time before a sourced six year-old, wheated bourbon was aged in it. The resulting whiskey has a powerful nose of dark chocolate-covered caramel and freshly ground coffee with a little molasses and cardamom lingering in it, too. The palate has great heat on it with bold notes of dark roast coffee and baking cocoa, along with traces of caramel and butterscotch. The finish is surprisingly long — perhaps this is a bourbon best paired with dessert. Still, if One Eight can make a coffee-finished whiskey this good, I’d love to see what they can do with more traditional wine casks. Batch 3, 92 proof. A- / $78

Oneeightdistilling.com

Review: Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel Bourbon

25 years ago Booker Noe created the Knob Creek brand. Today we’ve seen KC undergo a few changes (most notably dropping its longtime age statement), but it’s still sticking with its “pre-Prohibition style” under the auspices of current master distiller Fred Noe. For this limited edition 25th anniversary release, Knob Creek is bottling its spirit at cask strength for the first time ever — and, as a single barrel release, it’s unblended, too.

Compared side by side with the original (with 9 year old age statement) Knob Creek, a few things immediately spring to the fore. There’s more orange peel and a stronger allspice element on the nose in the 25th Anniversary bottling. The wood influence is aromatically stronger, too, though it’s never overpowering on the nose.

The palate’s heat is immediately evident: At over 61% abv, it’s got way more alcohol than rack Knob Creek at 50%. The bitter orange peel is even more noticeable here, along with notes of well-aged wine, red pepper, and intense, ginger-heavy baking spice. Water is a great add: It tempers the hefty alcoholic core and allows more of the wood-driven vanilla, caramel, and chocolate to spring forward. The finish is lasting, complex, and keeps the focus on pepper and wood, with just a touch of toasted marshmallow.

Ready to sip like you’re on the frontier, but considerably upscale? This is probably what those fatcats get to drink in Westworld.

122.1 proof. Barrel date 2/28/2004.

A- / $129 / knobcreek.com

Review: Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon Single Barrel Private Selection from SF Wine Trading

San Francisco Wine Trading Company recently sent us its Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection offering, and while it was a knockout, the truth is that private selections of Four Roses Single Barrel are a dime a dozen — sometimes it seems like every liquor store has one.

No SF Wine Trading is out with another private selection bourbon, this one much more unusual: Wathen’s, which is made by the Charles Medley Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky from a mash of 77% corn, 10% rye, and 13% malted barley. (Wathen’s carries a giant number 8 on the front label, but that’s not an age statement: Wathen’s is officially a NAS whiskey.)

Wathen’s isn’t generally regarded as an outstanding bourbon (and that’s reflected in a price that can run as low as $30), and this private selection (with a 50% premium) isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, either. That said, it has enough charm to merit some attention.

The nose is a bit unusual, with notes of raisin, prune juice, and a bit of petrol atop otherwise straightforward notes of toasted wood and somewhat scorched caramel. The palate is a bit more interesting, taking some of those more exotic notes and flipping the script such that vanilla and caramel take more of a center stage, with dried fruit and some new chocolate notes stepping back into the background a bit. The petrol appears again on the relatively hot finish alongside some new wood notes, but neither is overwhelming, and together they manage to end the experience with a semblance of balance.

94 proof. Barrel #0094.

B / $45 / sfwtc.com

Review: Westland Garryana Native Oak Series 2017 Edition 2|1

Westland’s single malt “Garry Oak” series continues with this second edition, a follow up to the inaugural 2016 release. I won’t rehash what a Garryana oak is, but will instead focus on how this release differs from the first. The main thing: No peat.

Like its predecessor, Edition 2|1 features Garry Oak as the lead note in a broader composition that brings together a variety of distillates and cask types. The most noteworthy change from last year to this is the absence of a peated component. This is an intentional inquiry. Garry Oak contains a relatively high amount of natural phenols, and so we felt compelled to see how its particular brand of smoke expresses itself when it doesn’t share the stage with the peaty kind. If Garryana 1|1 was a grand gesture; this edition portrays an expression of subtle depth.

Garryana 2|1 is also bottled at a somewhat lower proof (50% abv)… and is on shelves with a somewhat higher price. As with the first release, there’s no age statement.

Let’s move on to the tasting…

The nose is a touch odd — a bit sweaty, with notes of roasted vegetables, fresh-cut lumber, and dusky cloves. The palate however has more in common with a typical American single malt. Grain-forward, but not overly so, the wood influence is powerful, giving the body ample tannin plus notes of burnt sugar and roasted hazelnuts — the latter a common thread from the first edition of the whiskey. The finish sees the emergence of additional spicier elements — nutmeg and cinnamon, dried red berries, and a lightly sweet, milk chocolate note. The wood grips at the back of the throat as the finish fades, providing a curiously saccharine note to the conclusion.

It’s a strange whiskey — and one that’s quite different than its predecessor.

100 proof. 2600 bottles produced.

B / $150 / westlandgarryana.com

Review: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon, Cigar Blend Bourbon, and J. A. Magnus Reserve

DC-based Joseph Magnus Distillery seems to have a lot at its disposal when it comes to crafting its whiskey. Besides the list of industry icons that have formed its distilling team, it is sparing no expense in sourcing the very best aged whiskeys as well as the finest used European oak casks in which to finish them. The distillery’s initial offering, Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon Whiskey, showcased the fine fruits of this investment. The folks at Magnus, however, have looked recently to improve an already quality brand by introducing older and even more rare sourced whiskies into their line-up. You’ll pay even more to enjoy some of these new releases (in one particular case, a LOT more), but you can’t deny the skill and quality that’s going into these bottles.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon – This bourbon takes its name from the pre-prohibition Magnus flagship brand. It’s a blend of 18 and 11-year-old sourced bourbon, as well as a 9-year-old sourced light whiskey (high-proof whiskey aged in used or uncharred new oak containers). Murray Hill Club has a soft nose with subtle butterscotch and citrus notes and just a little black pepper. The palate is honeyed with ground cinnamon, clove, and buttery caramel. The heat arrives in a perfect wave on the very back end and extends through a medium finish with warming notes of black pepper and vanilla. I’ve only encountered a few blends using light whiskey, most of which ran too hot for my liking. This one hits the mark on heat but leaves me wanting just a little more flavor, particularly at this price. 103 proof. B+ / $92

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon – This whiskey is the result of Master Blender Nancy Fraley’s desire to create a sipper that would pair well with a cigar. It is also comprised of 11 and 18-year-old sourced bourbon along with about 25% of the Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon, a 9-year-old bourbon finished in PX, Oloroso, and cognac casks. The final blend is then finished in Armagnac casks, which is unique in the bourbon world. The nose on Cigar Blend is sultry, with sweet tobacco smoke, dark fruit, and vanilla frosting. I’m tempted to just inhale this one instead of drink it. On the palate, it’s all kinds of southern dessert: toasted pecan, vanilla bean, and butter brickle perfectly layered with sweet fig jam and dark berry cobbler. It’s got a thick, oily mouthfeel that leaves all of those flavors hanging well into a generous finish that, like Magnus’s other offerings, has the perfect amount of heat. 100.7 proof. A / $150

Joseph Magnus J. A. Magnus Reserve – What I said earlier about paying a LOT more was in reference to this bottle, in particular. The J. A. Magnus Reserve is a marriage of 16 and 18-year-old MGP “honey” barrels, yielding only 192 bottles. On the nose, there’s orange zest, cinnamon, buttered toffee, and a little candy apple all mingled with a great warehouse note that gets stronger as it opens up in the glass. On the palate, it’s candy sweet but not cloying with a buttery mouthfeel and flavors of chocolate covered orange peel, marmalade, and stewed cherry with a very gentle, peppery heat. The finish is a mile long with slightly drying notes of sweet oak and lingering citrus candy. The balance of flavor is simply remarkable. Master Blender Nancy Fraley said that her goal with this bourbon was to create “liquid poetry.” I’m not sure what that would taste like, but I think this is close. And at this price, it should be. 92 proof. A / $1,000

josephmagnus.com

Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Toasted Oak Rye

We reviewed the last entry into Woodford Reserve’s Distillery Series only in June — and as promised, the second of three special edition ryes to be released this year is already here.

Toasted Oak Rye is made from a mash of 53% rye, 33% corn, and 14% malted barley mash, matured in used Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels (time unstated), then re-barreled into new Woodford Double Oaked barrels for two years.

As a reminder, this is a distillery-only release.

This is a considerably different whiskey than the prior Blended Rye release, very sweet on the nose, with a clear butterscotch note. As the whiskey gets some air in it, the hefty wood notes come to the fore, alongside some notes of cloves, allspice, and ginger.

The sweetness similarly dominates the palate, offering more of that butterscotch, brown butter, cloves again, and gingerbread cookies. Let this one rest a bit — while it’s very sweet, it’s tempered by some wood (less than the nose would indicate), and air lets the two sides mingle quite seductively. The silky body — at a just-right 43.2% abv — supports the palate just right, leading to a long and juicy finish, with hints of applesauce and plenty of vanilla.

I first felt this rye was too sweet, and my hunch is you’ll probably feel the same way… but let it settle down so it can reveal its charms, and I think you’ll come out the other side impressed.

86.4 proof.

A- / $46 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com

Review: Iowa Legendary Rye Whiskey and White Whiskey

Hey, Templeton isn’t the only outfit making whiskey in Iowa. Check out Iowa Legendary Rye, a much smaller, family-run operation which distills and ages its own 100% rye whiskey, all from locally sourced grains. The company bottles both the unaged rye and an aged expression, though the latter does not carry any aging or barreling information.

We tried them both.

Both are 80 proof.

Iowa Legendary Rye White Whiskey – Lots of fruit on the nose here — cherries and peaches — which leads to a palate that is loaded with overtones of apricot and peppermint. A relatively restrained body leads to a quiet finish, but one which pops with notes of the inevitable popcorn and a heavily fruity echo of cherries. An unusual expression of white whiskey, to be sure. B / $35

Iowa Legendary Rye Whiskey -This aged rye continues the fruit-heavy theme, but this time the focus is apple, with vanilla and caramel giving it a bit of an apple pie character. There’s ample youth at play, some funky mushroom notes, lots of lumber, and a hefty spearmint character (echoes of the white dog) that builds on the finish. That earthy funk is hard to shake, though, and it lingers on the finish with notes of prune and root vegetables. Better as a mixer, where the fruit can shine more clearly. B / $45

iowalegendaryrye.com

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