Rye whiskey being the original whiskey distilled by the American colonists, it´s not that surprising that it´s surfacing again in a big way. Totally different from Bourbon and with a character wholly its own it showcases the variety of American whiskey.
Here I´m going to sample a few of them.
George Dickel Rye Whisky, 90 proof (45%).
Yet another one from the Tennessee George Dickel distillery, that I´ve gotten to like a lot through some of my tastings of their other produce. Made from a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley this is indeed a high rye content whisky. As many other contemporary ryes actually distilled by Midwestern Grain Products (MGP), earlier LDI (Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana), this brew undergoes additional processing by first chilling and then charcoal mellowing by the Dickel company.
Dark gold in colour. A nose first dominated by dry rye spice, followed by a finish of citrus, vanilla and caramel. Neat in a tasting glass there´s an initial dryness giving way to spice, caramel and citrus. The finish is quite long and involves dry spice, some astringent wood and pepper.
Sold in the by now easily recognizable Dickel bottles. Functional and alluding to older times. Nothing that really catches your eye.
Good, as everything else from this famous distillery, but I must confess to having other favourites amongst the ryes.
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, 90,4 proof (45,2%).
I must confess being a sucker for many of the whiskies from the Woodford Reserve distillery. Their standard output shows high quality, as well as daring to be experimental with other releases. This is an expectedly refined rye packed with taste.
Made from a mash bill of 53% rye, 14% malt and 33% corn.
Dark gold in colour. A nose characterized by light caramel from the corn and the familiar rye spiciness offsetting the hints of sweetness. Neat in a tasting glass it´s pretty dry despite notes of caramel and fruit, still being offset by a resurgence of spice. A pretty long finish mixing all of the above, while adding some discrete mint at the end.
Coming in the regular, very stylish Woodford Reserve bottle it´s looking quiet high-end, and is definitely something I would like to try again.
Redemption Rye, 92 proof (46%).
Distilled from a mash bill of 95% rye and only 5% malted barley, this rye should be the real thing. Actually manufactured by the ubiquitous MGP, matured in charred new oak barrels for somewhere between 2 – 3 years, and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Deep golden colour. A nose that´s a combination of dry spice, mint and some oak at the finish. Neat in a tasting glass it definitely has its own character. Dry, spicey and again some mint at the finish, with a very discreet sweetness midway. Maybe not something that jumps at you but still with a distinct character. Next project will be trying it in a Sazerac.
The whiskey comes in tall and slim bottles, with batch and bottle numbers. Fairly easy to recognize since they certainly stand out amongst the competition in their relative simplicity.
Redemption Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey, 121,8 proof (60,9%).
As the previous one, this shares the Indiana/Kentucky story, with the same mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. This time with barrel maturation of 7 years, and bottling it at a whooping 121,8 proof cask strength. My bottle is no 1125 from batch no 4.
Dark amber colour. A complex nose with dry rye spice mixed in with the aromatic sweetness of brown sugar. There´s also oak and other spices like cloves. Neat in a tasting glass it´s packs an alcohol punch which is more or less neutralized by a few drops of water. After adding water the sting recedes and you get a strong, distinct rye pepper followed by cloves and liquorice. The middle part manages to keep quite dry in spite of some citrus notes appearing. The finish lingers again on rye spice, but with an addition of astringent oak. This one I really like, and prefer to sample it slowly with different amounts of added clear water.
Packaging is different from the producers´ usual high and slim bottles. This one is riffing off the Absolut Vodka design, but with heaps of black wax sealing the cork and half of the bottle. I would say, try it if you can get your hands on a bottle.
James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey, 100 proof (50%).
It´s always difficult to know if the ancient history provided by the producers is true or just marketing, but please check out their homepage to make your mind up. A lot of interesting facts on this series of distillates. ( http://jamesepepper.com ).
Apparently a whiskey with a very long history, where current owners has worked hard to bring back the original recipes. Quoting a 90% rye mash bill, the rest is supposed to be malted barley.
Amber colour. This whiskey has a nose distinctly different from the others tried today. There´s a start of dominant and complex spice – rye pepper, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate – ending with sweet berries. Neat in a tasting glass a few drops of water makes the whiskey bloom with spice, oak, some citrus and a long, lingering finish with some remaining burn despite the added drops of water. Very enjoyable and distinct. Would very much like to lay my hands on the 15 years variety though.
Coming in a bottle that would not look out of place in the Mariposa Saloon. No frills just a pretty realized design concept. While their product range is currently not easily available in the whole of Sweden, trying them out seems like a very worthwhile project.