Category Archives: Rye Reviews

Reviews of rye whiskeys generally using at least 51% rye

Michter’s 10 Year Rye – Review #39

Michter’s 10 Year Rye Background

Michter's Single Barrel 10 Rye BottleIn this space I like to go into the history of the topic whiskey, which is Michter’s 10 Year Rye. Sometimes the whiskey itself has a story or the bottle commemorates someone with a story. To me the interesting part of American Bourbon and rye is every bottle has a story and that story telling has become an important part of selling whiskey.

Like a lot of new whiskey startups, Michter’s is buying finished product from someone else. They’re an independent bottler. They don’t distill any spirits nor age any barrels. This sucks the romance out of the product, but if the whiskey is good and they’re up front with what’s they’re doing, that’s cool with me. Michter’s isn’t exactly up front with what’s going on. For example, if you visit their website there’s an embarrassingly bad Photoshop hack to make it appear they have barrels aging somewhere. It’s their big hero graphic everyone sees when they visit the site. I have no idea why someone would do this or even worse keep it online after being called out on it. It really makes for a lot of questions about the people behind the bottles.

Joe Magliocco of Chatham Imports is the owner of the Michter’s brand. Michter’s was a famous brand of whiskey out of the storied Bomberger’s Distillery in Pennsylvania. Magliocco bought the brand in 2011 and built up the modern Michter’s brand by sourcing some reportedly very good whiskey. That’s sounds great. That whiskey is apparently gone and now something else is in the same bottles. Michter’s isn’t the only one who has done this, so I don’t want to single them out, but as a consumer I’d like when the contents of a bottle complete changes. The Bourbon business has a very long history of keeping customers in the dark as to what they’re buying, so I probably shouldn’t harp on this too much. It’s always a matter of trust, and going back to that Photoshop stuff, that doesn’t inspire a lot of trust or even good judgment.

Anyway. Here we have Michter’s 10 Year Rye. I have no idea where it came from. From my research I’m not sure I could even give you a good guess. If anyone knows, I’m all ears. One thing for sure though, there aren’t too many 10 year old American ryes on the market, so that’s at least noteworthy about Michter’s 10 Year Rye.

Details

10 Years Old. Bottled at 46.5%. Barrel 14C174. No guess on mash bill. Paid $100

Aroma

Caramel. Spearmint, Vanilla, Cocoa. Gingerbread. Charred oak.

Flavor

Toffee, burnt sugars. Sweetness. Minty, pine. Mocha cocoa. Some smokey buttery phenolics. Charred oak with a bit of astringency. Mild spice in the finish. Warming alcohol. Nice layered flavors.

Overall

So, I like this bottle. It’s a nice drinker with good complexity and layered flavors. I beat up Old Overholt on phenolics that came across as medicinal/band aids. Some similar rye phenols are present here in Michter’s 10 Year Rye,  but I think more pleasant in the smokey side of things.

Since I don’t know much about the rye recipe, I’m left looking at comparable bottles in price, age, and flavor. My question is it worth the trouble and price tag vs what is generally more available?

One rye I really like and I think is a good comparison is Colonel EH Taylor Jr Rye. This is one of my favorite ryes and is a bit pricy, but not impossible to find. I don’t know much about the age, but it seems to drink like an older bottle. I think this is close. I prefer Michter’s 10 Year Rye, but given the price and availability, if I have a reliable source for EH Taylor Jr Rye I won’t be heartbroken if I never find a bottle of Michter’s 10 Year Rye again. I also lined up Russell’s Reserve Rye and that’s another of my favorites.  At about 1/3 the price it’s a great value for a nice whiskey, but not in the same league straight up. The next comparison was High West Rendezvous. I gave that my highest rating and it’s a great bottle for rye lovers. It’s a little goofy though with the blended young and older ryes. I don’t think it’s a very good comparison since they’re kind of different products. Still it’s a nice whiskey with a more reasonable price and is widely available. Last I looked at another Michter’s bottle, Michter’s US 1 Rye. To me, this was no comparison. While Michter’s US 1 Rye is a nice drinker, it’s sweeter and lacks much of the depth and character of the older Michter’s 10 Year Rye.

So, basically we’ve got a very nice bottle of Michter’s 10 Year Rye from an unknown providence. I’m pleased with the purchase and I’ll enjoy it. If I happen to stumble across another bottle, especially from this barrel,  I’ll probably grab it because I did enjoy it. If not, I’ll be content with other whiskey.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links & Other Reviews

Old Overholt Rye – Review #36

Old Overholt Rye Bottle Old Overholt Background

I recently reviewed Rittenhouse Rye, and like that bottle, its name stretches back to Pennsylvania whiskey making. As the story goes during revolutionary times the British blocked shipments of molasses for rum making. Colonists then turned their attention to native grains/cereals like rye. With that, Pennsylvania became a hot bed of whiskey production which began a tradition of rye whiskey making.

Abraham Overholt made rye whiskey on his farm in Westmoreland County, PA. Around 1810 he and his brother took their operation commercial. As farmers, they distilled about 6-8 gallons of whiskey a day and then increased capacity to 200 gallons a day. Eventually Old Overholt became the best selling rye whiskey in the U.S.

After prohibition, the Old Overholt brand transitioned to National Distillers. National Distillers generated a great deal of cash in a patent dispute with Fleishmann’s over yeast of all things. Flushed with cash, National Distillers went on a prohibition buying spree gobbling up failed distilleries and their stocks of whiskey. In total, National Distillers purchased 9 million gallons of forbidden whiskey. After prohibition, National Distillers bottled barrels of rye and sold it as Old Overholt until 1987 when they merged with Jim Beam. When Jim Beam took over the brand, the whiskey transitioned to Beam’s own rye recipe.

Details

No age statement. Bottled at 80-proof. 51% Rye. Paid $22

Aroma

Fruity, sweet, pears and apples. Band-Aid medicinal. Caramel. Bready. Hint of rye, but not much specific characters.

Flavor

Sweet and thin. Medicinal carries through from the nose. Pine flavors. Bready flavors. A little solvent mixed in with the medicinal. Some pepper spice builds in the finish.

Overall

Nothing special here in Old Overholt. The phenolics are off-putting and it’s otherwise thin and uninteresting. It’s cheap, so it has that going for it, but even still there’s better stuff out there for the money. Once you get past the band-aid, it’s pretty easy drinking with a relatively lower alcohol. Not much rye flavor here either, just a little pine and some black pepper. I get some breadyness that probably can be attributed to Beam’s unique yeast.

This one is a pass for me. Once in a while you can find a whiskey that drinks above its price tag, but this one tastes like a lower shelf whiskey.

Recommendation

Pass – 1.0/5.0 rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

This is a lower-percentage straight rye and we’ve got some options near this price. Closest is Wild Turkey 81 Rye. That’s not my favorite in this area, but I like it better than Old Overholt. From a few bucks more check out Rittenhouse Rye and Sazerac Rye. Also worth mentioning is Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Technically 101 is a amount more expensive, but it’s current selling in 1-liter bottles, so it works out.

Links & Other Reviews

Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old – Review #35

Sazerac Rye 6 Background

Sazerac Rye 6 Bottle When people think Sazerac usually it’s the cocktail. In fact, the Sazerac stakes the claim of America’s first cocktail. The next reference is likely the whiskey used to make that cocktail, which is usually a rye whiskey. Specifically Sazerac Rye 6 whiskey. That’s all relatively recently history, however. Sazerac Rye 6 only became the official booze for a Sazerac in 2000. Before that it simply called for rye whiskey going back to 1873. Before that, it was a French brandy named… Sazerac.

All this started in 1838 when Antoine Amedie Peychaud was mixing up brandy toddies. If you recognize the name Peychaund, it’s the famous brand of bitters. That Peychaud Bitters would later become a key ingredient in the brandy-based Sazerac starting in 1850.

The Sazerac would become the bread and butter of the Sazerac Coffeehouse (Bar), which was named after that French brandy. Owner Sewell Taylor made the brandy-based Sazerac the house drink and it gained a strong following. Then Thomas H Handy bought the Sazerac Coffeehouse and its brands. Not long after, the cocktail officially transitioned to rye whiskey and marks the beginning of a liquor empire that would eventually become known as the Sazerac Company. Kind of interesting all this American whiskey lore started with a French brandy.

Anyway, now on to the whiskey itself. Sazerac Rye is widely called Sazerac 6 Year Old or simply Baby Saz. There’s no age statement on the bottle, but the website still lists it as 6-years-old so we’ll run with that. This whiskey shares the same name of Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old, which is a part of the Buffalo Trace annual Antique Collection. While they have the same name, they’re actually different recipes. Buffalo Trace has had Sazerac Rye 18 held in stainless steel tanks for years now and Sazerac Rye 6 is a different product.

Details

Six years old. Bottled at 45%. 51% rye, 39% corn, and 10% barley. MSRP – $26.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Fruity. Cinnamon. Clove, caramel. Mint. Some Pine. Apples. Smells pretty wonderful.

Flavor

Light, fruity, and crisp. A good amount of sweetness in this rye with caramel flavor. Rye flavors are there with mint, some spiciness, and evergreen. A little alcohol burn.

Overall

Sazerac Rye 6’s nose I think is more complex than the flavor here, but there’s a lot to like, depending what you’re looking for in a rye. Sazerac Ray is not a rye monster as the rye components seem to be held in check with other flavors. It plays more like a big rye Bourbon. It’s pleasantly sweet and fruity with nice younger rye character, but not too young. Seems well-rounded.

I think Sazerac Rye 6 is a pretty nice pour, but may not be what people are looking for in a rye whiskey these days. They probably want more rye punch of either something younger or made with more rye, or something more complex in an older rye. Sazarac Rye might be a bit of a tweener in this regard. If you’re willing to enjoy it for what it is, however, it’s pretty nice.

The price is right and fits in well with some other “barely legal” ryes in both flavor and price.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 out of 5.0

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

In this category I’ll group Sazerac Rye 6 with Wild Turkey 81 Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, and Old Overholt. All are priced similarly and have similar profiles. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is probably my favorite of this group and Sazerac Rye 6 is my second.

Links and Other Reviews

Wild Turkey 101 Rye – Review #34

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Background

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Bottle Wild Turkey starting making rye about 25 years or so ago and it was a boutique product compared to the Bourbon side of things. A few years back rye saw a big spike in popularity and as a result Wild Turkey 101 Rye fell into short supply. In 2012 Wild Turkey introduced a younger lower proof rye with its Wild Turkey 81 Rye. The problem was simply supply had run short and Wild Turkey needed time to age more barrels. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is about 6-7 years old, but lacks an official age statement. Supply finally started to catch up late 2013 and Wild Turkey introduced a new 1-liter bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Rye.

Wild Turkey has an interesting history as a subsidiary of a New York-based grocery store. Austin Nichols bought bulk whiskey and sold it under its own brand. What’s known today as the Wild Turkey Distillery eventually became a sole source for whiskey and Austin Nichols bought the distillery. The acquisition was during the darker days of Bourbon and it was to ensure a steady supply of whiskey.

One noteworthy bit about Wild Turkey is they’re known to have a lower entry-proof. Meaning the product is a lower proof as it comes off the still and goes into the barrel. That lower entry proof carries more flavor from the mash and gives Wild Turkey products a bit distinct flavor.

Details

No age statement. Bottled at 101-proof. Rumored 65% rye. Paid $35

Aroma

Caramel, Doublemint Gum. A little pine sap. Some graham cracker. Vanilla and cinnamon. Wood char. I’m really liking what’s coming out of this glass.

Flavor

Nice peppery spice with lots of caramel. Nice sweetness for a rye. Some red hot cinnamon and a menthol/mint that lingers after the finish. Nice woody oak character that melds with char. Barrel character is a bit drying. Nice mouthfeel.

Overall

It’s got a little roughness to it similar to the Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. It’s the signature Wild Turkey thing that I really dig. A ton of flavor here and real nice pour. I like to leave the water out of this one and just enjoy it as-is.

It drinks like a big rye Bourbon, which not uncommon I think for the “barely legal” range of straight ryes. If you’re looking for something with a  more distinct rye flavor you could look for some younger bottles and also something in the 90%+ rye. I like big rye Bourbons though and this price is pretty nice, considering you’re buying a handle.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Prorate Wild Turkey 101 Rye down for a 750ml bottle and it’s sits on the same price shelf as Rittenhouse, Old Overholt, and  Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old. Those four are similar I think in price and rye percentage for comparison. Wild Turkey 101 Rye is my choice between the four both in flavor and value.  Also worth mentioning the Wild Turkey 81 Rye. For me that will save about $5 when factoring in the volume differences. I think the 101 is $5 better.

Links & Other Reviews

Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye – Review #33

Rittenhouse Background

Rittenhouse Rye BottleRittenhouse is a modern rye, but is also a nod to the roots of whiskey in America. In revolutionary times the drink of choice for colonists was rum. When the British blocked shipments of molasses from the Caribbean, desperate times ensued. To get their drink on people started distilling native grains and cereals. Pennsylvania in particular was known to make some more than adequate rye whiskey. A lot of this rye whiskey was made along the Monongahela river and this particular style of rye whiskey became known as Monongahela Rye.

Rittenhouse isn’t made in Pennsylvania but in Kentucky by Heaven Hill and is a throwback to the Monongahela style. For decades Rittenhouse was one of only a handful of ryes being produced in the United States. Rye had fallen out of fashion and perhaps hung on at the behest of some bartenders and whiskey lovers stubbornly sticking to tradition. Then as is typical, given a long enough timeline what was once popular eventually sees a renaissance. Rye began to boom in popularity and Rittenhouse was at the forefront with a legendary name at a great price.

The Rittenhouse story has a couple more twists with a fire in 1996 at the Bardstown Distillery. The fire was a total loss and the future of other brands were in doubt. Heaven Hill teamed up with Brown-Forman (of Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, and Old Forester fame) to work out a distilling agreement for Rittenhouse. Since then, and until recently, Rittenhouse was distilled at Brown-Forman. Not long after, Heavin Hill bought the Bernheim Distillery from Diageo in 1999. The distillery didn’t have capacity to add on Rittenhouse, but around 2008 the capacity was increased by 40%. At that point Heaven Hill once again began distilling Rittenhouse and filling barrels. That whiskey started to come to age in just recent months. If you really want to nerd out you can look at the bottles and know which is the newer stuff. labels listed as made at DSP-KY-1 are the newer bottles and DSP-KY-354 are the bottles we’ve known for many years. This review is listed as DSP-KY-354.

Details

No age statement, but said around 4-6 years old. Bottled in Bond at 100-proof. Paid $24, Mich state minimum.

Aroma

Caramel and cocoa.  Good vanilla. Barrel char. Soft rye bread. Mint. Maple syrup.

Flavor

Oaky. Seems dry already with additional astringency. There’s sweetness here, but seems to be hidden. Black pepper rye flavors. Tobacco. Toffee. A little buttery.

Overall

Rittenhouse Rye is a dry and assertive rye. This seems to have maturity to it with a some darker notes. Rittenhouse Rye has a woody dryness that doesn’t always work for me. The finish gives me a little cotton mouth. There’s a lot of flavors here and they’re pretty intense. Rittenhouse Rye is enjoyable at full 100-proof, which helps in the flavor department. It’s also nice with a little water. I can see why this is a popular mixer. It has some nice assertive flavors that hold up well while mixing.

Pricing on this bottle is good. There are only a handful of rye whiskeys and bourbon of this quality at this price. If you’re looking for a mixer, this is a good bottle to have on the shelf. If you’re looking for a sipper, this is’t my first choice but for the price it’s worth checking out.

Recommendation

Try a Glass 2.5/5.0

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Rittenhouse has a relatively lower rye recipe, putting it in the “barely legal” group somewhere just about 51% rye. At this price there are a few similar options worth checking out. I’m a fan of “Baby” Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old which has some nice sweetness vs the dryness here. Old Overholt is a popular option, but that’s a little dull in my book at 80-proof. Besides the Baby Saz, I’d recommend checking out both Wild Turkey 81 Rye and Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Technically Wild Turkey 101 Rye is up a tier in price, but that’s because the current packaging is only a 1-liter bottle. Pro-rated it’s right in there with Rittenhouse and a very nice rye.

Links & Other Review