There isn’t a glut of cask strength ryes out there and Riptide is an interesting addition to the category. You aren’t going to confuse it with Thomas H. Handy or Kentucky Owl. It tastes young, because it is. The intent was to showcase the rye flavor, not overwhelm it with oak. I generally find ryes seem to be drinkable at a younger age than bourbons, so I don’t mind this. It’s tasty and lightly oaked and the higher proof lends body. (Funny how I look for the grain flavor in a rye, but never say, “I love how the corn shines through!” about a bourbon.)
In a field of what ended up being six rye whiskies, two stood out above the rest. The ultimate winner was Booker’s Rye, currently an $850 bottle. The consensus runner-up was a 3-year rye from a then-relatively unknown new distillery called “Wilderness Trail,” who had just released their first 4-year rye that same day. I was stunned and couldn’t believe that a $60 3-year craft rye whiskey would excel amidst a group of well-known and established brands, including a couple private picks. I don’t need many fingers to count how many craft distilleries I’ve gotten intrigued about, but this definitely was one of them.
This was my favorite of the three Coppercraft whiskies we reviewed. The nose was quite inviting and there should be no doubt you have a rye whiskey in your glass. I got the impression from that initial nosing that the first sip would be sweeter than it actually was, but when you consider a 95% rye mash bill, with the remaining ingredient being barley, as opposed to corn, the fact that it wasn’t should come as no surprise. That’s not a knock on the palate, but more of a nod to the nose.
With this release, I continue to be happy with MGP’s foray into releasing their own brands. None of them will be winning whiskey of the year accolades, but they’re all solid expressions of what MGP has been doing well for decades. (I’m still waiting for that MGP label that blows my mind. I just hope MGP hasn’t been letting their barrel sourcing clients take all of the great barrels resting in their rick houses.)
Michter’s master distiller Pam Heilmann calls this, “my favorite Michter’s whiskey.” She’s a real and regular whiskey lady, so it was believable high praise when she said that to me—unsolicited and on multiple occasions—which put me on the hunt for it. Did I mention kicking myself for not buying all three bottles on the shelf when I found it 230 miles from home? I’m a fan of Michter’s Straight Rye Whiskey, but at just 84.8 proof, it’s a minor leaguer compared to its Barrel Strength sibling.
There’s a plethora of two-year-old Ryes hitting the market, with some commanding amazingly high price tags. As this market gets more crowded, distillers must distinguish themselves from the competition.
Being a local, I was excited when Wollersheim, who has run a successful winery for several years, opened its distillery and announced it would create whiskeys. I’ve been curiously waiting ever since for something to be released, with my fingers crossed that they’d distill and age something of at least decent quality, as they’ve done a great job creating wines.
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend a Sagamore Spirit Rye tasting. I like their regular rye offering, but at 83 proof, it is a nice rye but not great. The Cask Strength Rye, however, is excellent. It has finally arrived here in Virginia and I purchased a bottle when I saw it.
Five years into Joe Beatrice’s foray into the independent bottling business, his Barrell brand has not taken its foot off the creative pedal. Famous for its unique and truly limited batch releases, each new bottling is markedly different from the rest. Sourcing from distilleries in Indiana and Kentucky, Barrell augmented its sequential Bourbon batch releases with private picks as well. Now, Barrell has gotten into the Rye game, and this second batch is anything but traditional. 5 year-old MGP Rye aged in Indiana and Kentucky joins a 5 year-old 100% Polish Rye aged in new charred barrels.