Riptide Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Review Header

Riptide Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Review

In Rye Whiskey Reviews by Thomas Fondano2 Comments


The rich butterscotch notes of oak complement the underlying spice of the Rye to make an incredibly smooth Rye Whiskey.

– CALI Distillery
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Riptide Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

  • DISTILLER: CALI Distillery, contract distilled in Kentucky
  • MASH BILL: ~92.5% Rye  |  7.5% Malted Barley
  • AGE: 14-18 Months
  • YEAR: 2018
  • PROOF:  118 Proof (59% ABV)
  • MSRP: $30
  • BUY ONLINE: Mission Liquor

NOSE: Light with faint dried/candied fruit

TASTE: Burnt Sugar | Rye | Spice | Black Pepper

FINISH: Medium | Black Pepper | Stewed Fruit

SHARE WITH: Cask strength whiskey fans

WORTH THE PRICE: I think so. A rye of this proof at this price is rare, but I understand some may be turned off by the age.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Try it in a bar if you see it, but as it isn’t widely distributed outside of California, your best bet is probably buying a bottle online.

OVERALL: 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.)

At this price, I have no issue mixing with Riptide. It makes for interesting (and potent) old fashioneds and Manhattans.

Because their website says the mash bill is 95% rye, one might guess that this is a sourced MGP rye like so many others. It is not; it is contract distilled in Kentucky. I spoke with owner Howard Witkin and he said the actual rye content is closer to 93%. The extra barley aids the fermentation which in turn smooths some rough edges in the distillate. Riptide also avoids much of the pickle flavor common in MGP’s 95% ryes.

While I would love to see CALI continue to age Riptide, Witkin says it will remain around this age to preserve the flavor profile. There are plans to release a longer-aged, proofed-down rye in the near future.

Learn more about Thomas’ whiskey preferences and check out more of his reviews…

Disclaimer: CALI Distillery provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.

About the Author
Thomas Fondano

Thomas Fondano

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Thomas Fondano has been drinking bourbon and trying every bottling he can get his hands on since last century. While he enjoys all types of whiskeys, bourbon remains his go-to whenever he says, “I need a drink.” He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he makes cocktails every day at 5pm. Read Thomas' full profile.


  1. Steve Coomes

    I’ve got some really nice bottles of young rye and bourbon (rye and wheat) that I’m sipping now for future reviews. Not as high proof as you’ve reviewed here, but designed to be grain-forward, old-time whiskey, the stuff people drank long before long-aging. It’s a great exercise in understanding how rye can be so easily subdued by the barrel, not to mention a proper celebration of the grain that defines the whiskey. Are they my favorites? Not yet, and they may never be. But they’re cool all the same.

    1. Thomas Fondano

      I agree, Steve. I revisited this one last night after an over-oaked, highly sought after, limited annual release bourbon and being able to taste the grain in the rye was made more enjoyable by comparison.

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