The folks at Barrell Craft Spirits have finally answered my prayers with the release of their first batch of rye whiskey. This initial batch is aged 4.5 years and features rye whiskies distilled in Indiana and Tennessee. A combination of “sweeter malted barley rye barrels and spicy high rye barrels”, Barrell Rye Batch 001 comes across as a bit different than you’re used to. I’ll explain in my tasting notes below. Barrell Rye is bottled at a cask strength of 58.5% abv, or 117 proof, to preserve the full character of the spirit.
Rye grain is at the forefront of both the nose and palate. On the nose, the whiskey comes across as rich and buttery as well as spicy. Here, the spice I refer to is cinnamon and allspice. A bit of caramel and a touch of vanilla extract round out the nose. On entry, an initial blast of buttery toffee transitions into waves of spice, butterscotch, and slightly herbaceous notes. The interplay of sweet and spice is nice here. The finish is long, with slightly sweet toasted rye bread and dark malt lingering.
It seems the intention with Barrell Rye Batch 001 is to put a spotlight on the grain. That is partially accomplished with the young age. What makes this release unique is the blending of two completely different types of rye whiskies. The end result is a grain-forward rich, sweet and spicy rye whiskey. While not utterly complex, Barrell Rye Batch 001 is immensely enjoyable. Part of the fun is realizing you’re drinking something just a bit different than you’re used to. 7.5/10
Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye is one of my favorite uncut whiskies. It’s not the most complex rye I’ve tasted from Michter’s. Their 10-year-old rye holds that honor. However, the barrel strength rye is an extremely enjoyable pour full of rye spice and brown sugar richness.
With this new release, Michter’s takes that rye whiskey and lets it rest in toasted barrels for a short amount of time, just like their previous releases of Toasted Barrel Bourbon. This is the first time they’ve barrel finished a rye. The barrels used for the finishing process, as the name implies, have been toasted and not charred. The wood used for the barrels was air dried for 24 months.
What does this toasted barrel do to the base rye whiskey? In short, it intensifies the flavors.
The nose is ripe with dark brown sugar, vanilla and a cornucopia of baking spices. The latter is more pronounced here than in Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye. On the palate, this toasted barrel-finished rye comes across as rich and bittersweet. Dark caramel and burnt sugar kick things off, followed by lovely toasted rye bread and a cabinet full of baking spices like allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. A layer of vanilla cream acts as a counterbalance against all the spice. The medium-length finish features spiced caramel and a touch of smoke.
Wow. The barrel finishing added a different dimension to Michter’s rye whiskey character. To add even more uniqueness, this release is a single barrel whiskey, which means each barrel could be slightly different. My 110 proof sample came from barrel 17C570. It’s simply fantastically rich and flavorful. The price is right, too. $75 for a 750ml bottle. Now the bad news – this is a limited release and not a regular offering. Fans of Michter’s rye whiskies should rush to pick this one up. 9/10
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