rye whiskey

Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16-Year-Old Rye Whiskey Review

In this current whiskey craze we’re living through, it’s hard to find a well-aged straight rye whiskey. If you’re lucky enough to run into a bottle at a store, the price tag will most likely give you a heart attack. At the very least, your wallet will give you the cold shoulder for a while.

Enter The Cooper Spirits Company.

A couple of years back they released the 13-year-old Lock, Stock, and Barrel Rye for just over $100. A 16-year-old sibling of hit shelves last year at a slightly higher price. For 2017, Cooper Spirits Co. has unveiled Hochstadter’s Family Reserve, a cask-strength (123.8 proof), 16-year-old rye. All of it is sourced from Alberta Distillers Limited in Canada, and it’s distilled from a 100% rye mash bill. Like the other two ryes I mentioned earlier, Hochstadter’s Family Reserve is a limited edition. Only 7,500 bottles have hit the market for a suggested retail price of $199.

Don’t be turned off because this whiskey was distilled in Canada. The bold nose explodes with hints of dark caramel, nutmeg & cloves, buttered rye bread, and cigar box. Some burnt orange peel shows itself with some airtime. Air helps this whiskey. It’s a bit closed off at first. The all rye grain mash bill shows on the palate. An initial burst of rye spice hits and quickly calms, allowing other notes to shine – spice cake, dark caramel, and a touch of red fruit. Mid-palate is where aged tobacco leaf and some oak spice and tannin start to develop. The finish is long and warm with nice citrus and spiced honey notes.

What’s in the glass is really nice.  In fact it’s one of the better rye whiskies I’ve had in recent memory.  It is robust and shows off the complexities of the rye grain nicely without a big oak character normally found in older whiskies.  It’s priced about where it needs to be priced.  Those looking for better value should try to find last year’s Lock Stock & Barrel 16-year-old expression. It’s priced $50 cheaper and comes in at 107 proof.  9/10


Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey Review

Last year saw the one-time Booker’s Rye variant of the Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection hit the market to high praise.  This year have Basil Hayden’s Rye.  Will it hold a candle to Booker’s Rye, or is it fair to compare?

During this year’s New Orleans Bourbon Fest, Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe told me he consulted with Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell for some insight as to how they use quarter casks.  The resulting whiskey is Basil Hayden’s Rye.  According to press materials, this one-time release starts as a four-year-old rye whiskey.  There’s no mention of mashbill, but I’d guess it’s the standard Beam rye mashbill.  This four-year-old rye is re-barreled into newly charred quarter casks and is further aged seven years.  A small amount of the rebarreled rye is blended with the traditional rye to make this release.  

This is the first time I can remember quarter casks being used by one of the major American whiskey producers.  Some craft distilleries use them, and the results can be mixed.  At the same time I’m very familiar with Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  Using this type of casks usually results in a different kind of oak (and everything oak brings with it) flavor to whiskey.  Laphroaig is an example of a producer utilizing these casks for a positive influence.  What about Basil Hayden’s Rye?

The nose on the rye is both slightly youngish and oaky, but not offputting like some craft whiskies I’ve encountered.  There’s some rye spice right off the bat, along with hints of toffee, barrel char, and baking spices, with cardamon being most dominant.  The entry is a bit thin, due to the lower proof, but things pick up.  The rye spice on the nose isn’t as evident here, but it provides a touch of sharpness to the flavor, complimented by green tea.  Spiced caramel adds some sweetness, and vanilla pods add to its complexity.  Then oak tannins take over and begin drying things out for the finish, which is bittersweet and dry.  

If you’ve had the Basil Hayden’s bourbon, the new rye whiskey will be familiar. Both are bottled at 80 proof, and both should be considered “mellow.”  Basil Hayden’s Rye is less sweet, spicier, oakier, and drier than its bourbon sibling.  The quarter cask maturation really magnifies the oak and astringency, as well as a more layered vanilla note.  

I’d love to see this at a higher proof, but then it probably couldn’t be bottled under the Basil Hayden banner.  Maybe next year there’ll be a special Knob Creek Rye we can enjoy at 100 proof.  That’d be fantastic!  That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this whiskey as is.  Like Basil Hayden, it’s approachable and designed for someone new to whiskey or someone not looking for a BIG whiskey (read: cask strength) experience.  And nicely priced to boot!  Bottles are selling for around $45.  8.5/10

Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

High West Bourye (2017) Whiskey Review

The 2017 release of Bourye features a new label, showcasing the brand’s jackalope mascot.

The jackalope is back!

High West Distillery has just released their 2017 batch of Bourye, a blend of bourbon and rye whiskey.  Due to the whiskies used being sourced, Bourye changes a bit from year to year.  This year’s release uses whiskies aged 10 to 14 years, distilled at MGP in Indiana.  While the specific ages of the whiskies or ratios used aren’t being disclosed, their mash bills have.  The sourced bourbons carry a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley.  The rye whiskies are made with MGP’s very familiar mash bill:  95% rye and 5% malted barley. SRP is $80.

I really enjoyed last year’s Bourye release.  How does this one compare?  Overall, a touch sweeter than last year’s batch.

The nose carries hints of slightly burnt brown sugar, freshly baked cinnamon rolls, rye spice and light aromatic herbs and ripe red fruits.  On the palate, caramel sweetness quickly gives way to cinnamon and other baking spices.  The longer you hold the whiskey in your mouth, the more spices develop.  Ginger.  Allspice.  Cloves.  Wonderful!  Complementing that spicy character is a rich vanilla cream topped with red fruits.  A touch of the MGP dill note I’m sensitive to briefly shows.  The finish is long, warm and inviting, leaving behind rye spice and a touch of dark caramel.

I love the interplay between the spicy and sweet notes that are at play here.  It goes to show what can happen when skilled blenders get their hands on some great whiskies.  Another wonderful release from High West!  Highly recommended!  9/10

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