Entry-Level Rye Blind Tasting

Waaaay ago, I’ve participated in an entry-level Rye blind tasting. Being a fan of Rye in mixed drinks but not necessarily one of sipping them straight convinced me to broaden my horizon. After all, the worst that could happen is that we are starting to like these Ryes… Since this was blind tasting, I had no idea what I was tasting and all remarks are hence essentially addendums. The notes are rather brief and mostly sketchy on purpose, by the way. The rating is once again based on the alphabetical rating scale that we’ve already used for Japanese Whiskies. The reason why we are doing that is because we essentially lack the right amount of reference Ryes to put these Whiskies into perspective and I feel that the smaller rating scale requires less precise judgements than the 100-scale. We will get back to it when we will be having a look at Bourbon.

Something I immediately noticed is that the names and labels of these Ryes are decidedly less tacky than those of its Bourbon brothers, even though they come to a large extent from the same distilleries. In a sense, that already makes it a more mature (and less pathetic…) spirit in terms of representation for me. On Thursday, we will be back with rum by the way, no worries. It is going to be special, that’s what I can promise already at this point ūüėČ

willet2yo (2)Willet 3YO (Willet, 55,2%): I essentially only know Willet from Noah’s Mill Bourbon but don’t recall ever tasting any other expressions from the distillery. Nose: The Whiskey is quite spicy with hazelnut, some light (wood) glue, wood, leaves and greenery perhaps. Not too bad. Palate: Rather light but intense enough. I get the hazelnut-glue combination, maple syrup, corn and nutmet. Now also nougat. Finish: Relatively short with few new notes. Barely bitter with plenty of nougat. It’s good, intense and easy-sipping. It is slightly too simple, but other than that quite good. B-

rittenhouse (2)Rittenhouse Rye (Heaven Hill, 50%): This is actually the one I have at home for mixing Vieux Carr√©s. Mmmhh, Vieux Carr√©…¬† Anyway, it is a 4YO rye that made a name for itself because of its excellent price-performance ratio. Nose: Lots and lots of spices with chestnut but also creamy elements (Herrencreme). Minimally also glue and a subtle amount of wood. It’s slightly thin with chocolate, coffee and cocoa. Palate: Again, a bit on the thin side, even though the abv isn’t too low. The profile is fine and spot on, just to brief if you know what I mean. I get chocolate, After Eight, coffee and cardamom. Finish: The little that’s there is nice, but sadly that’s not enough. The price is still great, but maybe I have keep looking for an alternative. C-

lot40 (2)Lot No 40 Rye (Canada, 43%): A Canadian pot still rye. Nose: Quite Bourbon-esque. Glue, corn, raisins, wood, spices (pepper, cumin), chocolate and moss are my main associations. Palate: Not as strong as the nose but fresh with mint and vanilla pudding. Then pine cone, coffee dregs, and nutes. It’s an interesting profile but the Rye doesn’t really manage to deliver them really well. I guess it is because of the low abv but that usually isn’t an issue with these Whiskies. The finish is short but good. I get caramel, glue and wood. I like it, even though I am missing a thing or two here and there. C

bulleit (2)Bulleit Rye (Midwest Grain Products, 45%): A four year old rye from MGP with a mash of 95% rye! I think they have invested really heavily into the marketing of the brand in recent years, but I could be wrong. Nose: Spices and fruity notes alike. I get plenty of vanilla, apples, cinnamon, baked apples actually, Spanish oranges, cloves and plums. Yup, that works. Palate: A lot spicier than the nose. Pepper, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla are my main impressions here. There are essentially no fruity notes anymore. Instead lots of wood and later also quite some wood and dried plums. I really like it! Finish: Wood and dried plums, paired with the spices. It is a very nice and well-balanced Rye. Perhaps too well-balanced for my liking but it is doing a great job at what it does. C

sazarec (2)Sazarec Rye (Buffalo Trace, 45%): The nose is fresh with lots of chocolate, remotely close to After Eight, but different… Then apples, cinnamon and other spices without anything really sticking out in particular. Palate: At first it is slightly hot but it comes with an interesting pear-like note, which I have never encountered in this form before. All in all, it is a very mellow Rye with a very present, yet unobtrusive spice aspect to it. The finish comes with more spices and some wood. It kinda rounds it off, without offering anything new. You can definitely drink this one, but you aren’t missing out on anything if you don’t. C-

willet2yo (2)Willet 2YO (Willet, 54,2%): Here we have a very young small batch Rye at cask strength. Yes, that is technically incorrect, but that’s what’s stated on the label. Nose: Relatively flat and chocolate-y with some grains and herbs in the background. Quite sharp and more woody than I think it should be. It takes a while before it opens up to become a bit mellower but we don’t get many more aromas. Palate: Just as flat. Chocolate dominates, together with nutmeg and cinnamon, cocoa and espresso perhaps.¬† I don’t really like it too much and it definitely needs a drink to make much sense, I think. Finish: Short and flat with chocolate, cocoa and wood. D+

pikesville (2)Pikesville Rye (Heaven Hill, 55%): This is a six year old Rye produced at Heaven Hill. Nose: Lots of coffee and chocolate. Quite alcoholic with nougat and hazelnut. Meh… Palate: A rather thin texture even though the alcohol shouldn’t be too low. The rye reminds me of cola, mixed with cocoa and nuts. A bit odd indeed. Later more herbal notes and some cola again. Finish: Relatively long with more of the same. Actually it is this aspect of the rye where the herbs really come through. Probably the best part of it. It’s so-so. D

woodford (2)Woodford Reserve Rye (Woodford, 45,2%): Nose: Sharp, spicy and reluctant. Later a certain freshness. It is well-balanced but unspectacular. Probably good for mixing! The plenty of rye. Palate: Just like the nose, a very mild and excellent allrounder. Should make for a good pairing with crusted bread. Lots of rye, multi grain bread, olives and the typical rye-spicyness. Finish: Quite long and similar to nose and palate. A really nice one, I must say. B-

millstonerye (2)Millstone 100 Rye (The Netherlands, 50%): I am not sure if you can read the label but it is quite transparent and whaterever information you’d like to get, the answer is always 100! Nose: Quite nice with a mix of sweet, spicy (nutmeg, cinnamon) and fruity (citrus) notes. I must say that it is really well balanced and here I am totally saying this in a positive way. The palate is even sweeter and I do get oranges, whipped cream, wood, almonds, smoky notes somewhere between BBQ and medicine, the spices from the nose and again this citrus touch. Really, really nice, although this pot still rye is kinda column-y. Finish: Super short and almost non-existent. It is here that the Rye really starts losing some marks… A really good Rye from The Netherlands, who would have thought!? C+