Posts tagged ‘Rye Whiskey’

Phil’s Favorite American Craft Whiskeys

There is no section of my local liquor store expanding quite so rapidly as American craft whiskey.  New distilleries seem to be emerging every day, as do new whiskeys.  I have to admit that I have not been impressed with all of it, but I have really enjoyed some of the craft whiskeys released in the United States over the last few years.

For the purposes of this series, some of these whiskeys could be included in different categories (i.e. Dad’s Hat is also a rye whiskey in addition to being a craft whiskey), but I stated at the beginning that each whiskey could only receive one nomination, so that is why each of these whiskeys appears here as opposed to on another list.  So, here are the nominees for American Craft Whiskey:

Name: Balcones “1” Texas Single Malt

Distillery: Balcones

Batch: SM 12-9

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 106 (53% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This was one of the first batches of Texas Single Malt released, and it did not disappoint.  This whiskey elicited rich banana bread notes, a nutty sweetness, and a rich berry creaminess.  This whiskey really worked to forge a new style all its own, and it worked beautifully.  The only caveat to this nomination is that I have tried a few successive batches of this whiskey that I have not liked nearly as much as I liked this first batch.  That said, this particular batch was brilliant whiskey.  “1” Texas Single Malt is available on a limited basis the further one gets from Texas.

Name: Corsair Triple Smoke

Distillery: Corsair Artisan Distillery

Batch: 84

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 80 (40% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: This whiskey is a blend of three different malted barley samples, one smoked over cherry wood, one smoked over peat, and one smoked over beechwood.  The resulting whiskey is a unique take on smoked malt whiskey, yielding flavors of fiery peat, sweet barley, and freshly cut oak.  This is definitely a young whiskey that is a little rough around the edges, but the flavors are unique and they are bursting out of the bottle.  This is a hard whiskey to find, but if you do, it’s worth a try.  They are not too many like this one floating around.

Name: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye

Distillery: Mountain Laurel Spirits

Batch: N/A

Age: 6 months

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $35-40/750ml

Notes: This rye is made in the authentic Pennsylvania style, meaning that corn is not included in the mashbill as found in Kentucky ryes.  Dad’s Hat is then aged in new oak quarter casks for a minimum of 6 months.  You would probably think that after only 6 months, this whiskey would be hot and brash, but it is nothing of the sort.  Even at its young age, this is a quality whiskey, with cocoa dust, rich black cherries, fresh oak shavings, and white chocolate.  This is one of those whiskeys that is really good and gets you really excited about tasting such a well-made spirit at an older age (Dad’s Hat will be rolling out a 3 year-old rye this spring).  This whiskey was awarded “Craft Whiskey of the Year” by Whisky Advocate magazine for good reason.  It is widely available in the mid-Atlantic, but gets harder to find the further one is from Pennsylvania.

Name: High West Campfire

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Unnamed Scottish Distilleries – Blended and Bottled at High West

Batch: N/A

Age: 5 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $40-45/750ml

Notes: I had trouble decided whether or not High West belonged in the American Craft Whiskey category or not, but as they were undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the American craft movement, I have included their whiskeys here.  This particular whiskey is a blend of a rye whiskey, a bourbon, and a peated blended malt Scotch from an undisclosed source.  The result is something both unique and special.  Sweet flavors such as caramel, honey, and vanilla are present, as are herbal flavors like pine and juniper.  All these flavors are accented wonderfully by a twinge of rolling smoke.  This whiskey is widely available; you can find it in almost any liquor store where High West products are sold.

Name: High West Double Rye!

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Barton 1792 – Blended and Bottled at High West

Batch: N/A

Age: 2 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $40-45/750ml

Notes: Double Rye! is made at the High West Distillery in Utah by marrying two different whiskeys – a 95% rye mashbill, 2 year-old whiskey from MGP in Indiana, and a 16 year-old, 53% rye mashbill from the Barton Distillery in Kentucky.  The resulting whiskey is a tour-de-force of rye flavors.  All the spice cabinet range of a great rye is present here, but it is all buttressed by rich honey and vanilla notes to round out a great profile.  The great part about this rye is that it is available almost everywhere in the United States, and it won’t break the bank.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

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.

Mountain Laurel Spirits Visit and Dad’s Hat Port Finish Review

I recently had the opportunity to visit Mountain Laurel Spirits in Bristol, PA, where Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye is distilled, aged, and bottled.  I loved my time there and will definitely be back.  In my experience with various alcohols, it’s a great feeling when seeing the alcohol being made lends a greater appreciation to the beverage itself.  So it is with Dad’s Hat Rye for me.

The distillery is brimming with history.  There are old, dusty bottles lining the bar and black and white pictures of Pittsburgh bartenders serving Pennsylvania’s finest (rye that is).  Dad’s Hat is made the Pennsylvania way, with just rye and malt, and every care is taken to create the finest, most authentic product possible.  Both the distillery and the whiskey emerging from it have perfectly blended the technology of modern distilling with the tradition of Pennsylvania rye.

Mountain Laurel Spirits is a throwback to the old industrial distilleries of historical Pennsylvania.  There is an ancient mystery to the distillery when you visit it, as if you’ve been transported back in time 100 years to a time when American whiskey drinkers loved rye.  The founders’ love of Pennsylvania rye seems to seep out of the walls, themselves.  In fact, the history of rye whiskey in the commonwealth hangs on the walls behind the wooden bar through old bottles, jars, pictures, and other memorabilia.  The distillery itself is in an old, industrial area of greater Philadelphia, surrounded my old homes and old buildings.  There is even history oozing from the Master Distiller, Herman Mihalich.

Herman is a Pennsylvania native whose parents ran a bar in greater Pittsburgh in the days when Pennsylvania rye ruled the American whiskey market.  Pennsylvania rye was in Herman’s blood from day one, and that comes through when you are lucky enough to converse with him on the subject.  There is a deep emotional connection to the spirit for him, lending a care and attention to detail necessary for a great whiskey (a lifetime’s experience as a chemical engineer doesn’t hurt either).

I have reviewed two Dad’s Hat whiskeys to this point (Pennsylvania Rye & Vermouth Finish), enjoying both of them.  The third whiskey in their current portfolio is their Port Finish, a whiskey that defies the category of rye entirely.  It is sweeter than you would expect from a rye whiskey, but there is some wood and spice enough to round it out.  Its best function is as a digestif with a rich, slightly tart slice of cheesecake.  Trust me on this one; no need to thank me.

Dad’s Hat whiskey is one of the few whiskeys matured entirely in quarter casks that manages to come out as an excellent whiskey.  This speaks to Herman’s meticulous nature as a distiller, using only the purest heart of his run, and, along with John Cooper, managing their stocks to perfection.  If you are wondering if Dad’s Hat is experimenting with full barrels, the answer is a resounding affirmative.  Dad’s Hat’s next release will most likely be a straight whiskey, aged entirely in their 53 gallon barrels.  I had a chance to sip a few sips from these barrels and my face nearly melted off.  The whiskey maintained all of the rye vigor of the standard Pennsylvania rye coupled with an overlay of vanilla and rich berry fruits.  I cannot wait until the first bottles of this stuff hits the Pennsylvania shelves.

It was a fantastic day down in Bristol, PA, and I am very thankful for Herman for hanging out after the tour to chat a few minutes.  Its worth a trip there if you can.  If you can’t make it down the distillery, give Dad’s Hat rye a try.  It’s what craft whiskey is meant to be.

 

 

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!

High West Rendezvous Rye Review

This is the final review in my mini-series on rye whiskeys, High West Rendezvous Rye.  High West is a distillery out of Utah, that is currently distilling their own whiskey, but most of their products currently on the shelves are sourced from other distilleries.  This particular whiskey is a batched whiskey comprised of a 16 year-old 80% rye whiskey from the Barton Distillery in Kentucky and a 6 year-old 95% rye whiskey from MGP (formerly LDI) in Indiana.  It is then bottled in the recognizable High West bottle at 92 proof (45% abv).  I have heard that this one varies from batch to batch, but I have had three different batches now, and they have all been very good.  My tasting notes are a bit brief as I compiled my tastings of all three batches for the review.

On the nose, Rendezvous Rye has a lot of cinnamon and tart green apples, backed up nicely by the familiar rye notes of mint leaves and pine needles.  I also detect a bit of berry sweetness from the nose, too.  The palate is very well balanced, between rye notes and a healthy dose of barrel sweetness.  There are notes of cinnamon, oak, gin botanicals, pine needles, and vanilla.  The finish leaves warming potpourri, orange peels, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon sugar.

Overall, this is a very good rye whiskey, probably the best of the three I’ve reviewed in my rye mini-series.  It is a good balance between an old, elegant rye, and a young, brash rye.  My only complaint is that it achieves neither end fully, and leaves the whole whiskey experience a little short of excellence.  I suspect that this will make my forthcoming list of the Top Ten Whiskeys I want at Barrel Strength.  That said, this is still a wonderful rye whiskey that makes for a great introduction to craft rye whiskeys if you’ve been looking to let it ride with rye.  My grade: B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a very good rye at a reasonable price given the age, and one that gives an indication of the quality products coming out of High West Distillery & Saloon.

Old Overholt Rye Whiskey Review

Old Overholt Rye WhiskeyToday, I am reviewing Old Overholt Rye, one of the oldest whiskey brands in the U.S.  According to the bottle, the company began in 1810 outside of Pittsburgh.  Nowadays, Old Overholt is owned by and distilled at Jim Beam in Kentucky.  Old Overholt is a straight rye whiskey, bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).  There is no age statement on the bottle, but my guess is that Old Overholt is around 4 years old.  I’ve had a number of requests for a review of Old Overholt, and a gentleman at the bar last week was telling me how it was his favorite American whiskey, inspiring me to grab a bottle of Old Overholt.

Old Overholt is a medium gold color.  The nose reminds me a lot of other Jim Beam rye whiskeys I have tried (Jim Beam Yellow, Knob Creek Rye).  There are notes of honey, eucalyptus, tea leaves, and some nutmeg.  The nose is light and soft, but still nice and complex.  The palate is light and herbal.  That eucalyptus note is still there with some nice black tea.  There is a light spiciness to the palate as well, like wood shavings or spiced nuts.  The finish is medium-short, with a hearty dose of rye and nutmeg.  There is a little bit of oak mixed in as well.

Overall, I am a fan of Old Overholt.  It is a great, easy-drinking rye whiskey with enough complexity to make it a fun drink.  It tastes good, and it stands well in most cocktails.  Most importantly, Old Overholt is very reasonably priced.  Even in Boston, Old Overholt is rarely over $20 a bottle.  The value in this bottle is fantastic.  My grade: C/C+.  Price: $15-20/750ml.  Old Overholt is a fine example of rye whiskey, a great introduction to the style at a great price.

p.s. This review is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  An attack like the bombing at the Boston Marathon is carried out in order to sever relationships.  Whiskey (when enjoyed properly and responsibly) is about building relationships and enjoying life and the people who bring joy.  Please join me in fighting injustice with love, relationships, and good whiskey.  Let it ride!