rye whiskey

Review: Peerless Rye Single Barrel (New Orleans Bourbon Festival)

With the New Orleans Bourbon Festival right around the corner, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at some of their 2019 single barrel picks in a series of short reviews.  A lot of the whiskies in this series are still available in certain New Orleans retail stores and will be poured at the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival.

I anxiously filled my whiskey glass with the New Orleans Bourbon Festival Peerless Rye whiskey.  Anxious because I’ve avoided the brand until now.  Why?  The high price drove me away.  More than $100 for a 2-year-old rye whiskey.  The last cask strength 2-year-old rye I purchased was Willett Family Estate 2-year-old rye, and that was only about $35 a few years back.

This Peerless Rye was actually first poured a few nights prior, during the premiere episode of the whiskey livestream, Another Round – check it out if you already haven’t.   I liked it.  A lot.  Of course, by the time I poured it I’d already had a couple of drams.

But now it’s time to taste it with a clean palate.  Does it hold up?

The nose is extremely rich and decadent, with a dominating butterscotch note.  Hiding behind are hints of grass, vanilla, and maple.  The palate is equally robust and dessert-like.  It’s big and meaty, with butterscotch, maple syrup, rye spice, and an essence of grilled meat.  The medium-long finish showcases the spiciness of the rye grain complemented by a bed of sweetness.

I like it, but I don’t love it.  To me, that butterscotch note is delightfully intense, but in the end dominates everything, which, in turn, diminishes complexity and balance.  This is one of those whiskies in which I can enjoy a single glass but wouldn’t want a second.  Though it seems to be well-made, the syrupy quality isn’t my cup of tea.  I may be in the minority with this opinion, as it sold very quickly at retail.  Remember, whiskey is subjective by nature, and I think I’ll stick with that 2-year-old Willett Rye instead.  7/10

Thanks to the New Orleans Bourbon Festival for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Store Pick Review: Calandro’s Supermarket 1792 Full Proof and Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye

Calandro’s Supermarket in Baton Rouge, Louisiana just released a couple of store picks they thought I’d be interested in trying. Who am I to turn down whiskey? Mark Calandro and his son Taylor taste and choose the barrels for their stores. Let’s get to tasting.

First up is 1792 Full Proof. This goes into the barrel at 125 proof. After maturation, the whiskey is proofed down to that same proof. Because that could just mean a couple of proof points, this is basically barrel proof bourbon. The nose is rich with hints of caramel, red fruit and spice. Taste-wise, we’re talking about layer after layer of decadent caramel upfront. Additionally, hints of graham cracker and red fruits develop alongside some baking spice and leather. The finish is long, with lingering notes of barrel char and sweet oak. Calandro’s 1792 Full Proof is big, rich, and worth every penny of its $49.99 cost. 8.5/10

Next up is their Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye, currently one of the first of these releases in Louisiana AND the supermarket chain’s first rye whiskey picks. Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye is bottled at 115 proof. The nose is a touch muted at first, but becomes a bit livelier with a little airtime. Aromas of rye spice, fruit, vanilla, and lightly roasted coffee abound. On the palate, a sweet brown sugar entry develops hints of toasted rye grain, cherries, and wood spice. The finish is long and warming, with hints of sweet vanilla and spicy rye. $39.99 8/10

Great picks from Calandro’s! I am excited to see what they bring into the store next.

Thanks to Calandro’s for the generous samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

The latest Basil Hayden expression, Two by Two Rye, is not a rye whiskey. I can see where a consumer might get confused, thinking he or she is buying a rye whiskey. Simply deleting the word “rye” and naming this Basil Hayden’s Two by Two would have been a more direct approach.

What’s inside is interesting. It’s a blend of straight whiskies: 5-year-old rye, 7-year-old “high rye” , 13-year-old bourbon, and 7-year-old bourbon. The bourbon and rye whiskey blends aren’t new, but are delicious when made well. (See High West’s Bourye and Wild Turkey’s Forgiven.) In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Two by Two Rye is bottled at 40% abv. This whiskey retails for $44.99.

The nose is nice, if a bit muted and a little young, featuring spiced caramel, slightly ‘green’ rye grain, and a touch of burnt sugar. There is more of the same on the palate. Hints of caramel and waxy vanilla meet some baking spice. That green note from the nose is here as well, but in a less upfront way. A bit of toasted cedar develops right before the spicy and slightly dry finish.

I’ve gotta say – this is the first Basil Hayden release that disappointed me. It came across as a bit thin and sort of boring. The thin part had to do with the whiskey’s low proof. That hasn’t hindered the brand’s other expressions, but here it keeps robustness on a very short lease. As for the boring part… the whiskey is not bad. It’s just… okay. There’s nothing exciting here. The aforementioned Forgiven and especially Bourye are big, spicy, and robust, which is what a bourbon and rye blend should be. As for Two by Two Rye, a better choice would be any other Basil Hayden expression. Go for the reliable Basil Hayden’s bourbon with its high rye mash bill, or even the fruitiness of Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. 6/10


Thanks to Basil Hayden’s for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.