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.
No age statement. Bottled at 80-proof. 51% Rye. Paid $22
Fruity, sweet, pears and apples. Band-Aid medicinal. Caramel. Bready. Hint of rye, but not much specific characters.
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.
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.
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.