Indiana

Review: Willet Family Estate Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Willet Rye 2.jpg
ABV
59.6%
Aging
7 yrs; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

Willet, until the last few years, sources a number of bourbon and rye whiskies and put them under their family estate brand, a brand which now contains some of the most sought after whiskies in America because of Willet's skill at aging. Willet is now producing their own stock, but there are still terrific sourced barrels floating around.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Barrel 136; Aged 7 Yrs.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A really nice bottle.

A dense, rye-filled nose that you can’t appreciate without adding water: rye, rye flakes, buckwheat pasta, oak, dill, caramelized fennel root, anise seed...the grain character is so condensed and sharp – I am in love. Icing sugar, sticky toffee pudding (think dates and caramel sauce), bitter coriander, lemon peel, beetroot..I haven’t had a rye so defined and sharp since I tasted Masterson’s batch 1 in 2015. The palate is oaky, tangy, but full of sharp rye, acacia honey, dill, and lots of brown cardamom. Terrific tanginess and caramel, too – brilliant at full strength as well as diluted. It fades to anise, dill (lots of it), black tea, apples, and clove. There is a nice elderflower note I often find with Willet, too. The brown cardamom is still quite present on the finish, which is quite candied. (As an aside, if you’ve never cooked with brown cardamom – buy some just to smell it. a fabulous spice) This drinks very well at 48%.

Terrific rye. If you can ever find a decent willet rye at cask strength, they are amazing value – though very hard to find these days.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Average (based on $158)


Review: Bulleit 95 Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Bulleit Rye.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

This whisky, along with so many others (Templeton Rye, George Dickel Rye, Redemption Rye, Smooth Ambler, High West Rye, along with others) is not produced at the distillery of the brand name (if indeed, the brand even has a distillery) but rather at Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in Indiana where the whiskies are mashed, distilled, and aged. Their classic rye mash bill uses a recipe of 95% rye, which is very high for American straight ryes – for example, Wild Turkey Rye and Rittenhouse Rye are only 51% rye. MGP was originally owned by Seagram’s, a Canadian company, at a time when they also owned Four Roses and the yeast used is the same as the “V” yeast of four roses (as used in their Single Barrel bottling, among others). High rye whiskies are more common in Canada, but they are (unfortunately) not often seen as their own bottlings because they are usually used to flavour blends, as spices flavour food. The whisky doesn’t have an age statement, but is likely relatively young (perhaps 4-6 years).


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Oak, and the grain comes through beautifully with a bit of mint as well with a bit of a menthol feel to it. This is a solid, big nose with a nice balance between the oak and the herbal rye. Apricot jam, pine needles, a corn-type butteryness (though there’s no corn here!), vanilla, root beer also come through, and some earthiness that is almost moldy (though it sounds so – this is not bad).

Taste: Lots of rye here, with a good menthol and herbal kick as well. The mouthfeel is fantastic. Oak, dark, a good bit of vanilla, and a bit earthy. Very solid.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy – long, and bold. A bit tingly too. It carries on the same theme – oak, spice – like clove and caraway – and herbal rye. A bit tannic too, and this is not balanced by quite enough oak flavour.

This is very nice – it feels very firm and solid the whole way through, with a nice mix of flavours. A classic straight rye really, but it lacks some of the complexity and elegance that I wish for. However, it’s consistent all the way through and is a beauty to sip and mix. I like it a good bit more than their bourbon.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $39.


Review: George Dickel Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Producer George Dickel (Tullahoma, Tennessee)

George Dickel produces a number of products which they filter through maple charcoal in the Lincoln County process – a signature of Tennesse whisky (and, therefore, also Jack Daniel’s). George Dickel is the other major Tennessee distillery, making this rye – however, this one they don’t distill. They do filter it through maple charcoal, but it is produced at MGP in Indiana – a distillery well known for their rye (used in Bulleit rye, this one, and others) with a signature 95% rye mashbill. It is about 5 years old.

Interestingly, MGP, in Indiana, which makes this rye, uses the same “V” yeast strain as Four Roses (as in the single barrel) as they were all once part of Seagrams, a Canadian company, which used a number of different yeasts and products for blending purposes.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Enticing – vanilla, dried orange, oak, cherry, and a fat, rich grainy body. Dry spices as well are in the mix, and there is a beautiful floral edge to this which the oak hasn’t killed (as happens with some ryes made in new oak)- I love it. There’s a slight bit of stale bitterness to this, at times, which does detract, but it doesn’t always show its head. A real showcase of rye which reminds me how wonderful the grain is for whisky.

Taste: Fairly sweet and dry, with some black tea, pepper, tannins, rye with some lighter apply and cherry fruitiness, and some spices and a good kick of oak. The intensity of the rye is quite intense, and it has some of that distinct arugula earthiness and flax/linseed character. Fairly sweet, too.

Finish: Long – black tea, with some lightly fruity and funky rye and the oak sticking around and the lightest touch of malt. Spicy and grassy, lightly earthy, with maple, cola, mint, cinnamon, and apples too

This is very nice – and certainly so for the price. To get a rye of this caliber at a price like this is quite outstanding – certainly amidst what is available in Ontario this oughtto be a big hit. It does nicely with the oak and the rye, and is, simply, just a good American rye.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $37.