Straight Rye

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. This uses a large proportion of unmalted rye. Now, the 16 year old rye from Barton is being phased out, replaced with High West’s own rye.


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 (2019)

  •  Batch: 17C23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

This rye is still using the 16 year old rye from Barton, but it’s one of the last batches to do so.

Loads of dill, sweet and sharp oak, vanilla, cinnamon, rich marsh, arugula, mint, mixed berries, and some toasted fennel. What a nice whisky! The palate is oaky, spicy, and lightly fruity. Chipotles, oak, dill, maple, charred oak, sorrel, and a touch of nutmeg. The finish has some nice dill, oak, and clove. A nice mix of leafy, spicy vegetables (radish sprouts, arugula), baking spice, oak, and sweet oak.

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

The taste is on the edge in terms of this rating category, but this is such a classic example of a deep, complex, and broad American rye – it really is quite unique. Furthermore, it’s not too oaky and has a nice elegant touch to it as well. It’s one of my favourite – if not my favourite – American rye that is fairly easy to find.

Value: Average. It’s a very nice whisky, and sits in the average price range for a whisky of this qu


Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey (Barreled 2009) by Jason Hambrey

Knob Creek 2009 2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
N/A (but at least 51% Rye)
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This was a special release in 2018, and it came with anticipation - a cask strength, 9 year old knob creek rye! Some people certainly liked it, given that Whisky Advocate named it their number 2 whisky of the year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barreled in 2009, Warehouse A

  • Bottling Code: L3182CLH 13282005

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very oaky, and quite intense. Some of that classic Jim Beam rye nuttiness and vegetal character (buckwheat, perhaps?), mint, sorrel, cacao, and oak. Very rich. There is more – hazelnut oil, roasted celeriac, baking spices, a hint of patchouli, freshly milled whole wheat, and a bit of mandarin.

The palate is sharp and spicy, with loads of oak (fairly tannic), mint, patchouli, bitter clove, black pepper, mint, wild rice, lilac, and tannic oak. Corn is not absent either, with some rich corn husk coming through at the end. Extremely flavourful. The finish is quite herbal, tannic, and oaky.

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

Value: Average. A very nice whisky, but still a fairly high price (~100 CAD). If you like it more than I do, as some do, value would be higher, of course.


Review: Hochstadter's Family Reserve 16 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Hochstadter+2.jpg
ABV
61.9%
Aging
16 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This whisky was released at the same time as (my revered) lock, stock, and barrel 16 year old - it is from the same cache of barrels from Alberta Distillers which Cooper Spirits acquired - a cask strength, intense rye whisky. Alberta rye at over 60% - I must try this! It costs a pretty penny, though, sadly.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Now there is a nose! Quite candied, with loads of arugula, some spinach, light medicinal overtones, candied orange, prunes, plums, loads of clove, dried blueberry, dried cherry, dusty asphalt, oak, sundried tomatoes, loads of cedar – it just gets better with time. It reminds me a bit of the heavy caroni rums with some of the spice and medicinal notes. We have some dustiness too!

The palate is very herbal, lightly medicinal, dried spices – very Alberta. It ends in a rich flourish of arugula. Lavender,  throughout – it is quite sweet, with notes of icing sugar – moreso than other Alberta whiskies I’ve tried. This whisky is so huge, and so deep! The finish is oaky, rich, and still very fruity – lots of dried fruit, berry notes, clove, icing sugar, nutmeg, sweet oak, and the slightest bracing of tannin.

It is a very different whisky than Masterson’s, when compared side by side. The masterson’s isn’t as sharp or deep, and has a lot less vibrancy (if you can believe such a thing). Unbelievably, it puts masterson’s to shame – and masterson’s is one of the best Canadian rye whiskies, which rarely gets outdone. That says something.

I still like this a tad less than the Lock, Stock, and Barrel, which I feel isn’t quite as sweet and is a touch more balanced. Compared to the Lock, Stock, and Barrel 18 – this is less oaky, and more muscular, with deeper fruity and spicy notes.

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

Value: Average. Amazing whisky (some of the best), but 200 USD is a price, for sure!


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 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.