Every so often, you’re granted an opportunity to try something genuinely special. Such was the case when a friend sent me a Michter’s 25-Year Rye sample. But regardless of rarity or value, what matters most is taste, and I’m guessing this will go pretty damn well.
Pour: Michter’s 25-Year Straight Rye #14L715
Age: 25 years
Color: rosy copper
Nose: fruity molasses, blackberry jam, dense sweet oak
Taste: boozy pear, tangy vanilla bean, chocolate strawberry
Finish: long & flavorful – tart & earthy citrus, spiced apple, tobacco
Overall: At this point in my whiskey journey, I’m rarely impressed. With Michter’s 25-Year Rye, I’m not only impressed, I’m mesmerized. The layers of complexity are truly stunning. Dare I say it’s the ultimate combination of oak and fruit notes? (It is.)
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
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.
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)
Age: not stated (reportedly 6 years)
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.
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
Age: not stated
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.
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)
Age: 5 years
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!
Bottle courtesy of Frey Ranch Distillery.
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)
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.