Tag Archives: Low Rye Straight Whiskey

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel – Review

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel Background

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel
Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

I walked into my usual whiskey monger and was greeted with the latest store selection. I was excitedly shown a fancy bottle of a single barrel Crown Royal with a box and nifty bag. Nice presentation, but Crown Royal? I’m mostly a Bourbon guy, so I was skeptical, but hey I’ll give a shot.

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is actually pretty unique. My experiences of Crown is limited to the standard bottle that is typically a blend of up to 50 different whiskeys. One particular whiskey is their Coffey Rye made on a unique still named after its inventor Aeneas Coffey. The research says the Coffey Rye is one of the bolder component whiskey that goes into the other blends. From this Coffey Rye we get the single barrel expressions of Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel. Also, worth noting the Coffey Rye used here is aged in new American oak and bottled at a ample 103-proof.

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is available only to stores buying a single barrel. Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel started a slow rollout late last year in Texas and has since expanded to other states. Interestingly, apparently it’s not yet available in its home country of Canada.

Details

Bottled at 103-proof.  No age statement. Thought to be made of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% barley. Paid $55

Aroma

Earthly, butterscotch, spearmint, fruity with some mango and pineapples.

Flavor

Mild and sweet. Lots of bananas, brown sugar. Cinnamon. Vanilla. Oatmeal and maple syrup. Sawdust. Grapefruit.

Overall

In short, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel seems like breakfast in a whiskey glass. This isn’t a big bold whiskey and I’d guess it’s either not aged very long and/or aged gently in cold Canadian climate. Also, if I were to guess, I’d say Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel drinks below its 103-proof both in flavor and strength. On the backend it has some heat, but generally is pretty mild and enjoyable.

So, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel isn’t going to blow you away in flavor and punch, but it’s a unique offering. It’s an interesting example of what’s being made in Diageo’s Gimli, Manitoba distillery and also pull out the more flavorful components going into the widely popular Crown Royal.

I’m more of a Bourbon drinker and I’m not fully on the bandwagon of Canadian rye whiskey. If you prefer rye and enjoy other whiskey coming from Canada, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel should be in your wheels house. For me, however, the price seems high to be a regular bottle. I’m happy with the purchase and learning about Coffey Rye, but I probably won’t be going back for more.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 out of 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

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey – Review

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Background

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery is based out of Traverse City, Michigan where they have a couple tasting rooms. Currently they said they’re not retailing their whiskey widely since it’s in short supply, so you most likely need to visit the distillery or one of their tasting rooms. They make all their whiskey themselves and have been at it for about eight years.  They promote themselves as a farm to bottle operation sourcing all their grains/cereal from local farms.

Grand Traverse Distillery has three main whiskeys with Ole George, a 100% rye whiskey, a Bourbon made of 20% rye, and a Cherry whiskey which is their Bourbon with infused Michigan cherries.

Another Whiskey reviewed here is a limited release cask strength rye whiskey. It’s aged 6 years and made with 60% rye and 40% corn. Their first batch, which I’m told was actually a single barrel, is non-chill filtered and uncut 116-proof.
I tried Ole George, the Bourbon, and the Cask Strength Rye and came away buying this bottle as my favorite.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 116-proof. 60% rye. $45 for 375-ml. 

Aroma

Minty. Pine needles. Baking spices, cloves. Vanilla. Cough syrup. Sawdust.

Taste

Minty, sawdust. Vanilla. Caramel. Sweetness. Graham crackers. A little cola. Lively. It has some heat. Some astringency in the finish.

Overall

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is pretty tasty with some of that raw rye and sawdust flavors I pick out on younger rye whiskey. I compared to some other barrel proof rye whiskeys with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old bottles from Willett Family Estate. I was hoping to get a nice reference point, but they’re actually all pretty different other than for being high proof rye whiskeys. Differences in age, recipes, and perhaps aging bring different things to the table. If I were to guess, I think I’d figure Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey tastes like younger than 6 years, which could be an interesting contrast in aging in northern Michigan vs closer to the Mason-Dixon line.

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey brings spicy bold flavors that emphasize the rye. In the background, a sweetness comes in the finish for a pleasant sip.

It’s encouraging to see new distilleries’ product come to age and hold a lot of promise. Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a treat, but not a rye I’d regularly pull down off the shelf. Forget the fact there are only so many bottles out there to buy, the pricing makes this an exclusive bottle. The mentioned Willett is basically half the price for the volume, and there are a number of quality rye whiskies out there for even less, even though not barrel-proof. This is a challenge with new craft distillers doing interesting things on a different scale, but I think it’s still appropriate to not evaluate up-starts in a bubble from the rest of the industry.

Ultimately, my reviews are about quality and value. I’m told a second batch is in progress and I’d be curious to see Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey maybe at older age to take off some rougher edges, but then again that’s part of the character here. Still, Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a good whiskey in quality, however, with the pricing I’m going to go strictly by my scale and recommend making the trip to try a glass.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5 out of 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

Grand Traverse Distillery

 

(ri)1 Rye Whiskey – Review #48

(ri)1 Background

(ri)1 Rye Whiskey(ri)1, or “rye one,” is touted as an ultra premium rye whiskey from Beam-Suntory. From the marketing materials, bottling presentation, and goofy name, I’d guess they’re going after high-end mixed drink market. It seems to hit the mark as it has a mass-market appeal of light, crisp, and refined flavors. Beam was one of a small handful of companies regularly producing rye whiskey before it became trendy again. As a result, it seems reasonable Beam would interesting in branching out their portfolio of products.

(ri)1 is aged a minimum of 4-5 years and that’s about all the info Beam provides.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 46%. Thought to be about 51% rye. Paid $47

Aroma

Floral. Mint. caramel, cinnamon, charred oak. Spicy, but light.

Flavor

Evergreen, mint. Caramel and vanilla. Nuttiness what seems Beam yeast. Bubblegum. Nice sweetness. Spicy zip. Chocolate barrel char. Light in flavor. Mild astringency in the finish.

Overall

This is a pretty nice tasting rye. To me this seems subtle, but well put together. I could see this being better for sipping than mixing because of the subtleness, but (ri)1 certainly wouldn’t make an offensive cocktail. I’m not sure it would add a lot of character to a mixed cocktail, but it wouldn’t hurt anything. Like most lower percentage straight ryes, this shares some Bourbon character along with a good rye presence.

This is a more expensive rye. I’m not sure it’s worth the price, but among rye whiskies around 51% rye and this price range, I think I favor (ri)1. Overall I’m not really impressed with the rye whiskey near this price in terms of value. Maybe my opinions will change, but I think I’d rather just save a few bucks on a cheaper bottle of rye or spend the same money on a nice high-rye Bourbon. Still, if you dig rye whiskey, you’ll want to check it out.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0/5.0 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

Again I look at these as a 51%-range rye whiskey and try to compare it to similar whiskies near this price. Others would be Knob Creek Rye, and Russell’s Reserve Rye. They’re all pretty close to me with each having something I like. It could be a toss up, but I’d put (ri)1 at the top of the list, but certainly the others are worth checking out. I’d also suggest checking bottles in the lower price tier such as Wild Turkey 101 Rye, and Sazarac Rye.

Links & Other Reviews

Wild Turkey 81 Rye – Review #42

Wild Turkey 81 Rye Background

Wild Turkey 81 RyeWild Turkey 81 Rye is a recent addition to the Wild Turkey lineup. It was a response to the sudden spike in demand for rye whiskey, which previously basically a boutique product compared to the Bourbon business. When Wild Turkey’s supply of aged rye whiskey began to outstripped demand, they introduced Wild Turkey 81 Rye as what seems a stop-gap. It’s a younger version than Wild Turkey 101 Rye and obviously is a lower proof so they could get more bottles out of a barrel. Wild Turkey says the age of Wild Turkey 81 Rye is 4-5 years old.

Wild Turkey 101 left shelves for about two years as Wild Turkey’s ramped up production came to age. Wild Turkey 101 Rye began rolling out to select states in late 2013/early 2014. Bottles still appear to be limited and there’s no sign that Wild Turkey 81 Rye is going away any time soon.

Details

4-5 years old. Bottled at 81%. Rumored to be around 65% rye. Paid $21

Aroma

Minty, menthol. A little evergreen. Nice subtle, but distinct rye character coming through. Caramel. Charred oak. Touch of vanilla.

Flavor

Light and thin. A little cardboard. Pine flavors. Caramel, a little sweetness. Just a little spice builds in the finish.

Overall

For the price and the proof, this is pretty good stuff. It’s incomparable to Wild Turkey 101 Rye that’s not too much more expensive. If 101 is available, that would seem a no-brainer to me. But anyway, if you focus on what Wild Turkey 81 Rye is, there’s not much to dislike. Certainly it’s on the light side and lacks oomph, but it does have nice flavor and is very drinkable. This would make a nice afternoon session whiskey and there’s no complaining about the price.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0/5.0 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

If you can find Wild Turkey 101 Rye, that’s an easy choice in my book. The downside is you have to buy a whole liter at this present time, but it’s hands down the better choice for obvious reasons. From there, other similarly prices light ryes are Sazerac Rye 6 Year, Old Overholt, and Rittenhouse. There are some variations in there, but if I had to stack them up, I’d prefer the sweet Sazerac 6 over this, but Rittenhouse after Wild Turkey 81 Rye. Rittenhouse was dry and a little rough for my tastes. I wouldn’t recommend Old Overholt. Depending on my mood I could see swapping order on Sazerac 6 and Wild Turkey 81 Rye.

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