Straight Rye

Review: High West Yippee Ki-Yay by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
A blend of 2 straight rye whiskies finished in vermouth casks
Distiller Multiple (USA)

This is very unique - a blend of 2 straight rye whiskies (the same as in Double Rye), finished in Syrah wine and vermouth casks. Talk about interesting!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Very interesting notes – a huge nose. Lots of fruit, nuts, and combined with spicy rye. Caramel, red tannic wine, raisins, oak, cinnamon, black cherry, almonds, cookie dough, and oxidized wine. A lot of black cherry. The palate is full of vermouth – rancio, spices, wine – sour, sweet, and spicy. It’s remarkable, but a bit too vermouth-y for my sort of whisky. Lots of cinnamon, star anise, and dry spices. The finish is terrific – buttery, oaky, and spicy – and I do love rancio.

A very interesting whisky, and a great one to have for the sake of diversity – but it is pushing the boundaries of whisky since it tastes more like a liquer than a whisky. Not a bad thing, but I do like grain and oak. If it were a bit less liquer-ish I’d rate it higher, but exceedingly complex and interesting. But the dynamics at play aren’t really driven by whisky, it’s just a vehicle.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is one of the most unique whiskies I’ve tasted…

Value: Low. I don’t quite like it enough to pay this for it, but it is rather unique!


Review: High West Rendezvous Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

High+West+Rendezvous+1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
Blend of 6 and 16 year old straight rye
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Perhaps the most well known product from High West, Rendezvous is a blend of 2 rye whiskies – a 6 year old and a 16 year old. 6 year rye from MGP (95% rye, 5% barley) and the 16 year old rye is from a mashbill of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% malted barley from Barton.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 16E11

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A nice, rich, oaky nose – full of spicy mint and some terrific underlying floral notes. A terrific nose – great underlying dried fruit, cherry, earth, brown cardamom, corn husks, and some light mineral notes. Much richer and broader than double rye – buttery, oaky, and full of such rich rye to boot. The palate is spicy, broad, and complex – with a contrast between the sweet oak, spice, and rye floral notes. And great underlying vegetal notes. I do love floral rye. The finish shows some dried apricot and toasted macadamia. Terrific!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, but fairly pricy too.


Review: High West Campfire Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
>5 yrs old
Recipe
A blend of Scotch, Straight Bourbon, and Straight Rye Whiskey
Distiller Unknown (Scotland) and MGP (Indiana)

This is not something you see often (if ever) - a blend of blended malt scotch whisky,  straight bourbon, and straight rye. The scotch is peated, but not Islay, the bourbon is from MGP (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley) and the rye is from MGP (95% rye, 5% malted barley).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 14K20-A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

The nose is incredible – smoke, cedar hedges, wood, floral rye – lilacs and geraniums, buttery corn on the cob, bourbon – a terrific crossover between some great spirits. The peat character itself is quite dry, mineral, and woody – and marvelous with all the spices. The palate is buttery, peaty, spicy, and yet with the grain character of corn and rye – not something you see in Scotch, for even blended scotch is produced without showing the character of the underlying corn or wheat grains used. The finish is lightly sweet and confectionary, and yet with sharp smoke, spice, and a terrific thread of rye. Brilliant! High West is definitely a distillery to follow.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A bit expensive, but it is rather unique and it’s quite good!


Review: High West Double Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Called „the spiciest rye in the world”...not quite in my books (I think Wiser’s Triple Barrel even tops this). A blend of two different rye whiskies – the founder really liked a 2 year old rye from MGP, and wanted to tame it with an older rye – a 16 year old from Barton. 95% rye, 5% malted barley combined with 53% rye and 37% corn and 10% malted barley.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 15D15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Very spicy, with complex, young rye whisky – anise, peppercorn, celery, cinnamon, green oak, chicory, clove, mint, radish, pine, and corn husks. There is an ever so light oiliness that works great. A bit brash with all the youth – but still very nice. The palate continues, full of spice but tempered a bit with a middle that has some pear and peach, which carries it to a surprisingly soft finish – much like vanilla and spice poached peaches. The finish is nicely drying, and there are some great undertones of juniper, too. This stuff works really well. The rawness of the youth brings it down a touch, but it is still immensely interesting and well put together.

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

Value: Average.


Review: Lock, Stock, & Barrel 18 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright,  Cooper Spirits Company .

Image copyright, Cooper Spirits Company.

ABV
54.5%
Aging
18 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

I love Alberta rye. Pot distilled rye is my favorite style of whisky, I won’t deny it, and it can be an acquired style with all of the sharp spiciness and rich character. Alberta Distillers is widely acknowledged as likely the best rye distillery in the world, and it certainly distills a massive amount of it – perhaps the most in the world, but that is a conjecture without evidence.

Cooper spirits hand selected a number of barrels of 100% unmalted rye matured in new oak from Alberta years ago, releasing first a 13 year old, then a 16, and now this 18 – all favorites of mine, and right up my wheelhouse in terms of style.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

These Alberta ryes get a bit more restrained with age, but incredible spirit lies unfolds as you continue to nose. They start off sharp, spicy, and vegetal and soften, growing in fruit and oak integration with age. This has terrific, creamy fruit that sits on top – and underneath – black tea, arugula, iodine, rubber, pear, dense oak, cola, black licorice, ginger, dried peach, dark chocolate.

The palate is huge, with a load of arugula, tannic oak, cedar, and clove. It’s amazing how much the rubbery and medicinal notes carry through. Amazing aged notes – the oak both holds the grip in terms of flavor but also in terms of both maturity and reining in the powerful rye. The tannins are just about to the edge – but they are not quite too much. Huge finish, about as full of big, spicy rye as you can imagine, alongside tea. It has more creaminess and caramel than the 16 year old, but it’s not quite as vibrant, playful, and unique – and doesn’t have the incredible light fruit which makes it not only a good rye, but one of the best and most unique ryes I’ve tasted. Also, this is much oakier. So, now I’ve compared it to perhaps my favorite whisky of all time – this is still an unbelievable rye, indeed, an 18 year old new oak rye from the best rye producer in the world. It is pricy, but it is something....

Remarkable.

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

Value: Low. It’s a terrific whisky, but comes at a big price (about 230 USD).


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: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Thomas Handy.jpg
ABV
64.3%
Aging
6 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

The 2011 Handy, showing all the glory that can be had in relatively young rye. Though it's less than half the age of the other whiskies in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection - it shows the sharpness and glory of rye. My favorite BTAC. Of course, ABV and age vary year to year - the table above s not indicative of all releases.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2011 (64.3%)

  • Bottling Code: K2271110 119:44

  • Bottling Date: 2011

This is just a gorgeous, rye nose. Mixed dried fruits, clove, dried rose petals, rosehip jam, anise seed, menthol, oak, light corn husks, stewed apricots...I could go on. The dried floral notes, combined with the spice – absolutely gorgeous. The palate starts off sharp before a creamy wave of spice and dried apricot, dried rose petals, rosehip, clove, nutmeg, and roasted swiss chard. The finish is full of spices, corn husks, rosehip, and cinnamon. Really, a wow whisky...and right up my alley.

Discounting Lock, Stock, and Barrel 16, it’s the best rye I’ve had since Masterson’s batch 1....side by side they offer such different things. Better nose, not quite as good on the palate, but cask strength is (a lot) of fun and takes the finish to terrific lengths. Whisky is just terrific business.

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

Value: Very High, if you can get it at the recommended retail price (about $150).


Review: Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40.5%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~51% Rye, 37% Corn, 21% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

American straight ryes are slim pickings in Ontario, and they’re pretty hard to find under 40$. This is pretty well the best you can do. The whiskeys blended into the product are between 4 and 5 years old.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Fruity, with apricot, apple (like slightly old golden delicious), light menthol, vanilla, and a bit of a dank and sour smell. Corn is still quite present, and seems to have more presence than the rye, seemingly. There is a light, dusty bitterness coming through – but this is light and I only notice it at times. It’s a bit creamy, too.

Taste: Slightly sweet and oily, with a good vanilla and spicy backdrop which has a hint of coffee- and the mint note is retained from the nose. There’s still quite a kick of corn in this one, which often puzzles me about American straight ryes – I usually want a lot more rye than corn if I am drinking a straight rye.There’s a nice grainy and spicy finish, where the rye really just takes off but the corn also retains a firm grip.

Finish: Quite sweet on the finish, with some mint and black tea and cayenne pepper. It’s light, and a bit cleansing, for nice effect. The oak shows up slightly, and there is some mossy earthiness present. It’s also a bit dry, which doesn’t actually help this one, I think. Some nice fruity rye stays on the background as well, with some vanilla, which is nice.

Decent, although it is overall a bit flat and I want a bit more of what it is doing. I think the profile could handle an upping of the spice, which is why, I imagine, I would enjoy the higher proof version of this one more.

Value: It’s not expensive, so perhaps fits into the average category - but I don’t quite like this stuff enough. So, it’s in the low category for me.


Review: Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Another Buffalo Trace product on allocation - generally quite hard to find, this is the younger (~6 yrs) version of the esteemed Sazerac 18 Years Old which is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. In Ontario, they show up once or twice a year, but never last more than a week on the shelves.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Oak, dried fruit, and even a bit of menthol come off the nose. There are bananas and notes of cola as well. There are a few off-notes which smell a bit like stale grain to me. The oak is a bit mossy, and overall, though the influence is heavy, it is quite nice. Dried apricot, as I find so often with many straight whiskeys, is also distinctively present. Vanilla, as usual, is present – but it is not a prominent flavour and sits nicely in the background.

Taste: An oaky entrance, with some dried apricot and a caramel and peppery background, with a light star anise note. The spicy feel to it is very nice, though I do think the oak does dominate a bit too much and gives it quite a dry feel throughout. The rye is a bit candied, as it so often is with the caramel influence of new charred wood in straight rye. The peppery backdrop is very nice, though.

Finish: The oak comes through with some dried apricot and light vanilla, and some earthiness- it’s light after the taste but is quite enjoyable. It lasts quite well, and has a pleasant level of spiciness and sweetness for me. There’s also some nice lift with some minty notes, but the mossy and earthy oak holds its own brilliantly once all else has faded away.

This is very enjoyable, and is a solid choice for me when thinking of American rye. It is sharp, candied, and spicy, with a decent kick of oak influence.

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

Value: Average, at $56.


Review: Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

I should first of all note that the mashbill is based on popular suspicion, but Buffalo Trace won't confirm anything. This whisky is very popular - it has since gone on allocation and the last few years in Ontario you need to win a lottery to obtain the bottle. Some people simple love this bottle - I have had one batch and have been so-so in my opinion. Perhaps I just had a bad batch, and others are much better....


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code:B1424812: 19M

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Lots of maple! And, lots of oak. This is quite the nose. A lot of grain notes coming through – like rye flour, wheat flour – a touch of arugula, caramel, oak, and smelling just a touch sour as well. This is a very nice nose – more wood forward than grain forward. Quite sweet, also. The palate continues on – lots of grainy notes, and a rising note of buckwheat which carries through to a finish reminding me of roasted grain, particularly malted barley. Tannins, and orange, dried apricot play around in the background. The finish has good feel, but not full of complex flavor – though caramel, buckwheat, and some oak all have their say. Very nice, and I quite like that it is so grain forward. Terrific mouthfeel, and very nice – a bit more complexity and diversity wouldn’t do harm though.

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

Value: Low at $85.