Posts from the ‘Rye Reviews’ Category

Phil’s Favorite Rye

Rye is making a huge comeback, and is quickly regaining its prominence as one of the very best spirits around.  It is the shining star of many classic cocktails, works great on the rocks on a sunny summer day, and a good rye sips just fine straight up and neat.  Some of the following ryes are made exclusively of rye grain, while others have only the 51% rye necessary to make a straight rye.  Like many of the other posts in this series, these whiskeys are based solely on the flavor and quality of the whiskey, not on the price or availability.  Without further ado, the nominees for my favorite rye whiskey:

Name: Jefferson’s 25 Year Presidential Select

Distillery: Not Stated (Most likely Alberta Distillers)

Batch: 1

Age: 25 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $150-175/750ml

Notes: This whiskey most likely comes from Alberta Distillers’ 100% rye mashbill, but since I cannot confirm this, I have put this one into the rye category as opposed to the Canadian whisky category.  There is something magical that can occur to rye whiskies after they’ve spent a long time in the barrel.  All that brash rye spice gets tamed by the wood into something truly special.  Sipping one such whiskey is like listening to an elderly person who was a firebrand in their youth talk about their life story.  This is a rich, sophisticated whiskey with layers upon layers of old wood, maple fudge, and cinnamon spice.  Nosing this whiskey is pure heaven.  Unfortunately, this whiskey is released in very small batches, and is very hard to come by.  And, to boot, with the heightened popularity of rye whiskey, the price is only going up on this gem.

Name: Masterson’s 10 Year

Distillery: Alberta Distillers

Batch: 005

Age: 10 Years

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This whiskey could just as easily be categorized as Canadian, but since I usually see it in the rye section, I have included it here.  This is one of several Alberta Distillers 10 year-old rye whiskeys sourced out to other bottlers.  Of those that I have had, this one is one of my favorites.  It provides great balance between spicy and sweet notes, while also mixing in notes of mint, pipe tobacco, and drying oak.  This is not a cheap dram, but it is a consistently good, well-aged rye whiskey.

Name: Sazerac 18 Year

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Batch: 2012

Age: 18 Years

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: Like many of the Antique Collection whiskeys, there have been many great Sazerac 18 releases.  I’ve simply chosen the one I enjoyed the most.  As I said above, something magical happens with old ryes, and this is no exception.  This whiskey unloads a full complement of rich oak, baking spices, and luscious vanilla cream.  This is a complex dream of a whiskey from start to finish.  Like other Antique Collection whiskeys, this is released once a year, and is often difficult to come by.  When found on the secondary market, this one tends to command a very hefty price tag, but it comes awfully close to being worth every penny.

Name: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Batch: 2012

Age: 6 Years

Proof: 132.4 (66.2% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: Like the Sazerac 18, there have been many brilliant Handy releases.  This is a young, brash, exhilarating whiskey that packs a rye punch like few others.  Drinking this whiskey is an experience akin to chewing on a hot cinnamon candy that had been dredged in vanilla frosting.  The rye spices are in full force here, more so than in older ryes, but there is enough sweetness to bring complexity and body to it.  Few whiskeys will warm you better on a cold night.  Like the Sazerac above, it’s a tough find nowadays and usually ends up being priced awfully high when floating around the secondary market.

Name: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products

Batch: Barrel #148

Age: 6 Years

Proof: 114.6 (55.8% abv)

Price: $50-60/750ml

Notes: There have been many memorable MGP ryes bottled under the Willett label, but this one was my favorite of all the ones I have tried.  It has all the underpinnings of this series, with some briny notes and sharp rye, but what brought to love this whiskey was the creamy texture on the palate that supplemented the spiciness with sweet vanilla and cinnamon sugar notes.  It is highly doubtful that this particular barrel is still available anywhere, but Willett has begun bottling their own ryes, and what I’ve had so far has been pretty promising.

 

 

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Woodford Reserve Rye Review

hemingway

This is a picture of Ernest Hemingway because everybody already knows what a Woodford bottle looks like, and Guy Clark’s “Hemingway’s Whiskey” is one of the best songs ever written on the subject of God’s chosen elixir.

Woodford Reserve is certainly one of the most recognizable bourbon brands on the market today.  However, their premium line of limited edition whiskeys (the “Masters Collection”) has not gained the notoriety or acclaim as other limited releases like Buffalo Trace’s “Antique Collection” or Heaven Hill’s “Parker’s Heritage Collection.”  So much so, that among even some avid bourbon drinkers, people are unaware that Woodford Reserve comes in any other forms than the unmistakable Woodford flat bottle.  I’ll try and remedy that here with some thoughts on Woodford Reserve’s recently released rye whiskey (although their “Masters Collection” whiskeys are worth checking out, too).

Woodford Reserve Rye is a refreshing find in and amongst the dearth of Indiana and Canada ryes that roam the liquor store shelves disguised in all manners of bottling.  Woodford Reserve rye is comprised of whiskey made at both their locations in Kentucky, Versailles and Louisville.   The mash bill is made of 53% rye, a relatively low amount of rye given the amount of 95% and 100% rye whiskeys hanging out in the whiskey aisle nowadays.  There is no age statement here, but my guess is we’re working with something around 4-6 years.  The particular batch I am reviewing today is Batch 021, and it is bottle at 90.4 proof (45.2% abv).

The nose is classic rye, with cinnamon, clove, cedar, and oak.  There is also some caramel sweetness present, as well as some blackberries.  The palate is a little thin, with some sweet caramel, cinnamon sugar, and black cherry.  The finish offers a rescuing crescendo, though, with oak and rye spice, cinnamon, caramel, and mulled apple cider.  The finish is medium-long, and is very drying.

If you’re a fan of rye whiskey, you’ll enjoy this one.  It works well in cocktails and stands beautifully on its own, too.  This is a genuine Kentucky rye whiskey with all the flavors you would expect in good balance, but it still brings that drying finish I’ve come to expect from Woodford Reserve bourbon.  To boot, it is reasonably priced for all occasions.  Well done, Woodford Reserve.  My grade: B+.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  Next time you’re in the mood for some Woodford, give rye a try.

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Vermouth Finish Review

Yesterday, I reviewed Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye in honor of my own father’s birthday week.  Today, I am continuing with this trend with a review of Dad’s Hat Vermouth Finish.  The base of this whiskey is the standard Dad’s Hat rye.  The difference is that this whiskey has spent at least 3 months extra-aging in barrels that previously held Vermouth.  In addition, this whiskey has been bottled at the higher proof of 94 (47% abv).

The nose has some of the berry sweetness, wood shaving, and chocolate notes of the original, but the sweetness is more to the fore against the sharper rye flavors.  The palate has some cherry cola sweetness (without being overpowering or cloying), some rye, mint, and juniper. The finish is longer and spicier than the original in my estimation with a little more rye, cinnamon, and drying gingerbread.

Overall, the fingerprints of Dad’s Hat are right there in this whiskey, with some sweetness rolling through it nicely.  The vermouth finish on this whiskey is well-integrated, adding a lot to the finished product without taking away the quality of the rye.  If you like dry, dusty rye whiskeys, this one might be right up your alley despite its youth.  This one is definitely worth seeking out.  My grade: B.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  Like with the Dad’s Hat rye, the age might make the price seem high, but the whiskey in the bottle is worthy of the price point.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Review

Dad's Hat RyeMy father is not a big whiskey drinker, but his birthday is this week and I love him dearly, so there’s no time like the present to give my thoughts on Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye.  Dad’s Hat is distilled for Mountain Laurel Spirits at the Grundy Mill Distillery in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a commonwealth with a rich history in rye whiskey.  Dad’s Hat is a true craft whiskey, distilled and bottled at a small distillery with time and attention given to the craft of making whiskey.  The shelves at liquor stores have become inundated with new products of sourced whiskey from one of about ten different distilleries in the United States.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with sourced whiskey, but there are bottlers that do it right and well, and bottlers that hide their sources and overcharge for inferior whiskey.  Dad’s Hat has come along as a sign of vibrant quality in the craft whiskey world.

According to the bottle, Dad’s Hat is at least 6 months old, aged in new oak quarter casks.  I have to admit that I was skeptical when I read this statement, given the price I paid for the bottle.  Along my whiskey journey, I have tried way too many American craft whiskeys that are just too young to be let out of the barrel yet, much less sold at $40/bottle.  However, a few sips into my first glass of Dad’s Hat, my skepticism turned to the pleasure one gets from enjoying a fine, authentic Pennsylvania rye whiskey.  Dad’s Hat is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv).

The nose is a good one, different from what I was expecting.  There is a lot of cocoa, berry sweetness, sawdust, white chocolate, and juniper all wrapped up in a lively rye scent.  The palate is softer and smoother than I was expecting.  There are notes of cola, rye, wood, and cherry sweetness.  The finish is short and sweeter than I was expecting, with a little rye, cherry, and cereal sweetness.

Overall, this whiskey was not at all what I thought it would be.  I was expecting a young, fiery rye in desperate need of a good sleep in a barrel.  I had tried it some time ago at a sampling, and I was not impressed.  This is not that same, brash whiskey.  On the contrary, this is a soft, elegant, dry, spicy, immensely enjoyable rye.  It will be very exciting to see what happens in time when Mountain Laurel comes out with an older Dad’s Hat.  One of the common complaints about this whiskey is that it is not a good cocktail companion, and this is a soft, subtle whiskey that is best on its own, for sure.  The flavors of a traditional rye whiskey are present throughout the whiskey, but the whiskey is not harsh and aggressive like the 95% or 100% rye whiskeys coming out of MGP or Canada.  So, who would want to ruin a well-done whiskey such as this in a cocktail?  If you want a better-integrated cocktail, give it a whirl.  My grade: B/B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  Despite its age, this whiskey easily competes in its price range, and its worth a buy next time you’re looking for a rye to sip on.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

 

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Review

Northern Harvest RyeThe new job has definitely made regularly posting (and tasting) a chore, but I should do better in the future.  Today, I am reviewing Crown Royal’s new Northern Harvest Rye, a 90% rye mash-bill from  north of the border (Gimli Distillery in Manitoba to be exact).  There is no age statement on this whisky, but it is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv), which is a move I really like.

On the nose, there is some notes of fresh mint leaves, cloves, spearmint, rye spice, and eucalyptus.  It’s a pretty straightforward rye nose, with not a lot of complexity, but it is very well-executed and very pleasant.  The palate is soft and dry, with good hints of mint and rye, and a bit of caramel sweetness.  The finish is dry and medium in length with pleasant rye, vanilla, and caramel lingering.

On the whole, I am a big fan of this whisky.  It isn’t anything that will blow your mind, but it is a well-built, straightforward rye.  If you like rye whiskey, this is a dry rye with a lot of classic rye flavors going on.  Crown Royal gets knocked down occasionally by connoisseurs in the whiskey blogosphere, but this is a very fine rye whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.   If you are looking for a good rye to keep around the house for both cocktails and a fine dram before dinner, this is a great rye to have on hand for such a purpose.

Happy New Year! and Koval Single Barrel Rye Review

2015 is upon us, and I hope you have enjoyed Bargain Bourbon’s past year as much as I have.  As always, a massive “Thank You” to all my readers of Bargain Bourbon and the people in my life who put with me through all my bloggings, musings, and rantings. So, on that note, what better way to open up 2015 than with a little whiskey review?

http://www.koval-distillery.com/newsite/whiskey/rye

Koval Rye Official Site (Photo Source)

At WhiskyLive Boston 2014, I was introduced to Koval Distillery, out of Chicago.  I reviewed their bourbon, and found it to be a refreshing take on bourbon that pushed the envelope without sacrificing the integrity of the product.  Needless to say, I was pretty fired up to dabble in some more Koval spirit.  So, I’m kicking off 2015 with a review of Koval’s rye whiskey.  This is a single barrel, 100% rye whiskey with no age statement (but I suspect we are talking about a 2-3 year-old whiskey).  The particular barrel I am reviewing is Barrel #331, and it is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

At first whiff, this is dry stuff, damn near non-liquid with notes of sawdust, dill weed, turpentine, nutmeg, and ginger.  It is a sharp, very dry nose, and while it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I like it.  The palate is light in its body, with some sawdust, ginger, dry rye, and cinnamon candy.  The finish is spicy, sharp, and bone dry.  As this whiskey worked down in the bottle, it really opened up in its body, cutting through its dry character to become softer and more approachable on the palate.

Overall, this is definitely a great cocktail rye (especially if paired with an especially sweet vermouth in a Manhattan), but it also works well on its own.  This is a very versatile whiskey that will only improve with a few more years in the barrel helping it along.  If you like great rye cocktails, sipping a fine whiskey on the rocks, trying a great new rye, or supporting a very good craft distillery, Koval Single Barrel Rye is worth the money.  My grade: B-.  Price:  $40-45/750ml.  The only complaint that I can really find with this whiskey is the disparity between the age and the price, but this is certainly a quality rye that cuts through the gimmicks of the craft whiskey world with a solid 100% rye.

Happy New Year from Bargain Bourbon!

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Review

 

Well, needless to say, I was pretty excited when Wild Turkey 101 Rye hit the shelves again after a few years gone from the wide world of rye, almost as excited as I was to see the U.S. soccer team pick up a 2-1 victory over Ghana.  This has long been regarded as one of the finest value ryes that you could no longer find in liquor stores.  Now, Wild Turkey has rereleased this whiskey, and I am pretty excited to get to review this new release.  There is no age statement on this, but I suspect that we are dealing with about a 6 year-old rye here; we do know that this is 101 proof (50.5% abv).

 

The nose on Wild Turkey 101 rye is quite vegetal, but full of spicy rye characteristics.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme, licorice, and wood shavings all present themselves.  The palate is earthy and a bit vegetal, with some wood, soil, rye bread, and licorice.  The finish is long and sweeter than the palate, with honey and vanilla wrapping themselves nicely behind herbal, earthy spices.

 

Overall, this is a fine rye whiskey.  It presents a lot of classic rye characteristics with a lot of value.  I would also imagine that this would do wonderfully in a rye-based cocktail if that is your cup of tea/whiskey.  Either way, this one is definitely worth a try, although I cannot say how it stacks up to what this whiskey was five years ago.  My grade: B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is most certainly a fine value for a rye whiskey, evident of a great trend for Wild Turkey.

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