Woodinville Cask Strength Rye

I wasn’t an immediate fan of Woodinville, but after tasting multiple private barrel selections and (spoiler) their cask-strength rye, consider me converted. Thanks to generous friends, I received two samples of this distillery exclusive. This batch is my favorite of the pair.


Pour: Woodinville Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey
Proof: 115.12
Age: 5 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: candied pear, dried apricot, sliced orange
Taste: fruit cocktail, vanilla cookie, tea, herbal spice
Finish: long w/ sweet cayenne, cinnamon, Altoid mints


Overall: There’s something about a 100% rye done right. Be it Alberta, Frey Ranch, or in this case, Woodinville Cask Strength Rye, there’s an unexpected fruitiness that cradles the rye’s grain-inherent spice. At $70 it’s not cheap, but it’s damn sure flavorful.

Rating: Ryet on.

Thomas H. Handy (2021)

Of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection expressions, Thomas H. Handy rye is the undisputed underdog. One could even say it maintains a cult-like appreciation, with some veteran enthusiasts claiming it’s the best of the lineup. But is 2021’s release up to snuff?


Pour: Thomas H. Handy Straight Rye Whiskey (2021)
Proof: 129.5
Age: not stated (reportedly 6 years)
Color: copper
Nose: ripe pear, dried pineapple, vanilla frosting
Taste: lemon cookie, boozy fruit rollup, sweet herbs
Finish: long w/ zesty citrus, vibrant oak, cayenne pepper


Overall: A fantastic example of what a six-year, barrel-proof rye should taste like – vibrant, complex, and dynamically spicy. If found at its $99 retail price, Handy is worth a purchase. Outside of that, there’s considerably better options.

Rating: It’s good, but settle down.

Barrell Seagrass

Unless you spent 2021 under a rock, you’ve surely heard of Barrell Seagrass. On paper, it appears as if the Swedish Chef decided to craft a whiskey. Get this. KY, IN, TN, and Canadian rye finished in Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. Bork, bork, bork!


Pour: Barrell Seagrass
Proof: 119.12
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: orchard fruit, almond pastry, floral honey
Taste: candied pear, spiked fruit cocktail, sweet spice
Finish: moderately long – vanilla creme, syrupy citrus, delicate oak


Overall: Well, I’ll be a Muppet’s uncle. This is delicious! “Whiskey of the Year?” Ehh. $80 well spent? Arguably. But no doubt delicious. If you’re looking for a uniquely sweet rye with loads of orchard fruit and elegant spice and oak, this is your jam.

Rating: Chef’s kiss.

Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond Rye

I’m a sucker for well-crafted rye whiskey. Unfortunately, the list of disappointing rye releases is endless. At least this Frey Ranch Straight Rye has a lot going for it – 100% ground-to-glass winter rye, aged 5 years, and bottled in bond. Sounds like quality, but is it? 


Pour: Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey (b. 5)
Proof: 100
Age: 5 years
Color: copper
Nose: buttercream frosting, cherry candy, Fruit Stripe gum
Taste: lemon cookie, zesty oak, vibrantly sweet spice
Finish: moderately long – cinnamon, Snapple fruit tea, white pepper


Overall: Wowza! This is one helluva rye. And to think it’s a bottled-in-bond expression. I can’t imagine what Frey Ranch’s rye whiskey is like at barrel proof. But given a single-barrel rye TTB filing last October, I suppose we’ll soon find out. Count me in!

Rating: A-Frey-zing.


Bottle courtesy of Frey Ranch Distillery.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Who could forget 2016’s “Whisky of the Year?” A lot of folks, apparently. In an age when people are hoarding 4-year sourced bourbon bottled by Costco, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye literally collects dust. What gives–actually, who cares? It was a $25, no-hassle purchase.


Pour: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Proof: 90
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: honey-lemon, vanilla frosting, fruit salad
Taste: sugar wafer, citrus & floral notes, lightly toasted coconut
Finish: moderate length w/ baking spice, Necco wafer, faint oak & pepper


Overall: I wouldn’t consider Northern Harvest Rye an awards contender, but damn if it ain’t half bad. Seriously, I could see myself buying this whisky again. It’s well-balanced, pleasantly sweet, and sprinkled with a fair dollop of spice. Works for me.

Rating: Royal Ryet.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye

I couldn’t help but find myself impressed with Restoration Rye’s bottle. It’s hefty, well-designed, and sports a weapons-grade stopper. Unfortunately, the stated age of “3” looks deceptively like an “8” and it’s not labeled straight. Let’s hope these are simple oversights.


Pour: Castle & Key Restoration Rye (2020, b. 1)
Proof: 103
Age: 3 years
Color: light amber
Nose: grain, pie dough, ethanol
Taste: peppered pear, Pledge polish, salt
Finish: moderately sour – bitter toffee, astringent oak


Overall: Look, I accept that youthful whiskey seldom tastes like well-aged whiskey, but Restoration Rye suffers from more than immaturity. It’s thin, lacking in sweetness, and wholly unpleasant from nose to finish. Restoration … it’s what your palate will need.

Rating: Rough.

Peerless Small Batch Rye

This is my second venture into Peerless Distilling Co.’s offerings. Today, I’m tasting Peerless Small Batch Rye Whiskey. Like the small batch bourbon, it’s bottled NCF at barrel proof. I assume batches and profiles vary. Let’s hope this rye fares better than the bourbon.


Pour: Peerless Small Batch Rye
Proof: 109.6 (barrel proof)
Age: not stated
Color: rich amber
Nose: sugar cookie, maple, buttered cinnamon bread
Taste: caramel creme, lemon frosting, vanilla extract
Finish: long & rich – English toffee, charred oak, cola


Overall: An exceptional pour. There’s complexity, depth, and a striking richness (almost syrup-like) that’s rarely found in younger Kentucky rye whiskeys. Peerless Small Batch Rye may not be cheap, but damn if it doesn’t taste expensive.

Rating: Legitimately impressive.

Pendleton 1910

For years, Pendleton 1910 was a bottle often seen but never purchased. After tasting a generous sample, I enjoyed it enough to acquire a bottle for myself. $40 for a 12-year Canadian rye whisky … not bad. Sure, it’s only 80 proof, but ABV alone hardly defines quality.


Pour: Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whisky
Proof: 80
Age: 12 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: woody honey, Necco wafers, cream soda
Taste: vanilla syrup, gentle oak, mild baking spice
Finish: moderately short – maraschino cherry, brown sugar, rye bread


Overall: Quite satisfying. In many ways, a darker, woodier, creamier Crown Royal Reserve. I wouldn’t call 1910 Rye a bourbon substitute, but the sweet oak character is certainly relative. If WhistlePig’s rye isn’t your jam, Pendleton is a worthy alternative.

Rating: Alryet.

Three Chord Amplify Rye

Amplify Rye is a whiskey blend from Three Chord, an NDP founded by rock legend Neil Giraldo. The label states it’s a combination of Kentucky and Indiana distilled rye whiskey; however, it does not carry a straight designation or age statement. This could get noisy, folks.


Pour: Three Chord Amplify Rye Whiskey
Proof: 95
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: lemon peel, vanilla Tootsie Roll, watermelon rind
Taste: tangy cake frosting, honey syrup, hints of mint
Finish: moderate length – sweet grain, confectioners sugar, peppery dill


Overall: Believe it or not, it’s quite sippable. While Three Chord Amplify Rye is youthful, it maintains enough structure to appreciate neat. Also, at 95 proof I’d wager it’ll fashion a suitable cocktail. Too bad it’s $45. Too bad it’s not labeled straight.

Rating: B-side.

Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye

Few bottles draw attention like Willett Family Estate. I suppose it’s because you rarely see them on retail shelves (at least in my area). When you do, they’re marked up significantly. You’d think a 4-year rye would be immune from this behavior. Unfortunately, not enough.


Pour: Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye
Proof: 111.4
Age: 4 years
Color: honey
Nose: dried pear, graham cracker, pineapple candy
Taste: zesty apricot, sugar wafers, white pepper, tea
Finish: long – sharp vanilla, tangy ginger, hot peppermint


Overall: I’ll give this whiskey credit for being flavorful and unique. Outside of that, Willett Small Batch Rye (4 years) is burdened with youthful, underdeveloped character. Why they continue to bottle this expression at 4 years is beyond me.

Rating: Two more years! Two more years!

Col. E. H. Taylor Straight Rye

There was a time when one could find Col. E. H. Taylor Straight Rye collecting dust on retail shelves in my area. (True story.) Those days are over. Hell, it’s probably been two years since I’ve seen *any* Taylor tube sitting on a liquor store shelf. Such are the days we live in.


Pour: Col. E. H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey
Proof: 100
Age: at least 4 years
Color: dark honey
Nose: maraschino cherry, vanilla wafer, blood orange
Taste: fruity caramel, lemon-honey, sweet oak char
Finish: moderate length – creamy cake frosting, ripe citrus, holiday spice


Overall: It might surprise some on first taste, but E. H. Taylor Rye isn’t distilled by Buffalo Trace. It’s distilled by Barton from a mash bill containing no corn. Unsurprisingly, it’s one uniquely tasty bottled-in-bond whiskey. If found at its $80 SRP, buy.

Rating: Damn ryet.

High West Bourye (2016)

High West’s Bourye, a limited edition bourbon & rye whiskey blend, has been around since 2009. Over the years, the sources have varied, including runs with Four Roses and Barton, though MGP remains the sole source since 2016. Speaking of which, I have a 2016 release to review.


Pour: High West Bourye (2016)
Proof: 92
Age: NAS (9-17 years per High West)
Color: rosy copper
Nose: caramel apple, blood orange, brown sugar
Taste: fruity vanilla bean, dark citrus-spice, boozy punch
Finish: moderate length – beautifully rich oak, cherry pie filling, herbal tea


Overall: Likely the best bourbon & rye blend I’ve tasted. An incredible whiskey – mature and complex with a remarkably oily mouthfeel for 92 proof (ah, the wonders of NCF). High West’s 2016 Bourye was apparently overlooked, and it’s your gain in 2021.

Rating: Worth the hunt.