rye whiskey review

High West Yippee-Ki-Yay Whiskey Review

Rye whiskey finished in vermouth and Syrah barrels?  That’s something I never thought I’d see, but here it is in front of me.  A bottle of Yippee Ki-Yay from High West.  They took their Double Rye, which is a blend 2- and 16-year-old rye whiskies, and finished it in those ex-wine barrels I mentioned above.  Strange combination.

Sometimes I try to imagine what a whiskey will taste like before I open the bottle.  I couldn’t place this one, though.  As is standard protocol here at the blog, I offered my wife Carly the first sip.  She did not like it, as was evident by the look on her face and “Ew” that came out of her mouth.  She’s more a Scotch fan.  Laphroaig, in fact.  Things were not looking good for Yippee Ki-Yay.

So, I poured my glass, opened up my computer, and started typing some notes.  Time to take a whiff.  How is it?

Surprisingly good.  I shouldn’t be surprised given this is a High West product.  The young rye whiskey notes dominate the nose with dill, toasted rye grain and cinnamon.  Then, the wine barrel influence compliments the spicy and herbal rye notes with hints of black cherries, cloves and fresh blueberries.  Taste-wise, this whiskey is spicy, which is something I look for in a rye whiskey.  There’s hot cinnamon up front, along with a burnt caramel and fruity & slightly bitter wine.  The vermouth is there.  Some citrus brightens things up.  In a strange way, it sort of reminds me of sangria.  The finish is long and spicy, with allspice and caramel.

Yippee Ki-Yay is a rather fun and funky whiskey, and I use the latter term in a good way.  The young, brash rye whiskey is  somewhat rounded by the fruitiness instilled by the vermouth and Syrah barrels while still kicking around those spice notes.  The 2-year-old MGP rye whiskey is still the star here.  If you’re not a fan of young rye, you probably won’t like this one.  While it may not be for everyone, Yippee Ki-Yay is another interesting release from High West.  Owner David Perkins and Master Distiller Brendan Coyle seem to have fun with their blending experiments, and it shows in their whiskey.


Thanks to High West for the generous sample.  As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Russell’s Reserve Rye Whiskey Review

Russell’s Reserve’s new packaging puts the distillers’ name at the forefront.

I love bourbon, but sometimes I want something with a little more kick.  That’s when I reach for a glass of rye whiskey.  Lately, I find myself drinking more and more rye whiskey.  Whether it be something big and powerful like Pikesville Rye or something deeply complex like Sazerac 18-year-old Rye, there’s something to scratch my itch.  So when the folks at Russell’s Reserve sent over samples of their bourbons for me to try, they also included a bottle of their 6-year-old rye whiskey.  I was especially excited because I really like Wild Turkey’s 101 proof rye whiskey.

The nose is aromatic and absolutely lovely.  Spicy caramel, cloves, allspice, and  toasted rye bread dominate the nose.  After a little time in the glass, hints of dill and vanilla appear.  The nose seems fuller than Wild Turkey 101 proof rye, which is also fantastic.  In the taste department, rye spice hits your tongue sharply, but soon mellows out.  Waves of nutty toffee and baking spices develop over a bed of creamy vanilla.  The spice ramps up again for the long, warm finish.

Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell has stated in the past that he doesn’t release whiskies younger than six years old for any of his products.  He also said he thinks a rye whiskey peaks in flavor at six years of age.  Comparing this bottle of Russell’s Reserve Rye with Wild Turkey’s 101 proof rye, I find this one more “rye-forward.”  If we’re to believe Jimmy, and I have no reason not to, both whiskies are at least six years old.  Russell’s Reserve Rye seems to be a bit sharper and more complex in flavor and aroma, where Wild Turkey Rye has a flavor profile closer to a Wild Turkey bourbon.

This one’s a keeper.  It has everything I look for in a young rye whiskey.  The rye grain sharpness, baking spices and just enough sweetness.  I’ve only sipped this whiskey, and haven’t had a chance to mix into a cocktail.  I bet it’ll make a helluva sazerac.

(Note: A review sample was provided by the company behind this whisky free of charge.  The opinions written are my own.)

WhistlePig 15-Year-Old Rye Whiskey Review

img_6743Say what you will about WhistlePig, but make no mistake: they produce some fantastic rye whiskey.  While they are busy churning out new distillate in their new still at their Vermont distillery, WhistlePig continues to mature and bottle sourced Canadian whisky in interesting ways.  First was their outstanding 10-year-old standard rye expression.  After that was the highly-rated cask-strength 13-year-old Boss Hog.  2015 saw the release of WhistlePig Old World, a 12-year-old rye finished in three different wine casks.  I thought the cask finishing was a bit overdone, but okay otherwise.

Now, WhistlePig’s oldest expression to date, a 15-year-old rye whiskey, is being released.  Made from 100% rye, the whiskey is finished in barrels made from Vermont Oak trees grown on the WhistlePig farm.  The company says these trees experience a short growing season, giving the trees a tight grain pattern.

This one’s bottled at 92 proof, but the nose seems a bit more intense than expected.  Oak spice, vanilla and toffee dominate the nose.  With a little airtime, the sweet, creamy notes tame the spicer ones.  The entry is full of wonderful warm spice (cinnamon, cloves).  The palate isn’t as sweet as the nose.  Oak tannins and vanilla bean develop soon after the spicy entry.  There is a bit of a sweet creaminess and a slight citrus note coming in at the back palate.  The finish is long but a bit drying, leaving behind notes of cigar box, cedar, and dried orange peel.

All in all, this is one fine rye whiskey.  At 15 years old, the big dry oak notes don’t really shine until the back palate into the finish.  I expect a whiskey of this advanced age to showcase big oak notes, and this whiskey succeeds in that.  Maybe the oak is a tad overpowering on the backend.  Minor gripe aside, WhistlePig 15-year is full of fantastic flavors that only a well-aged rye whiskey can bring.  While this one was enjoyable, I’d probably reach for a bottle of their 10-year-old rye first.  The suggested retail price is $199.99 for a 750ml bottle.

(Note: A review sample was provided by WhistlePig.)