Our first meeting, I felt, was a huge success. We all had a fun time and everyone agreed that it was more like an experience or a journey than just a tasting. I think that talking everyone through the process of making bourbon, how it differs, and what makes it special really helped everyone feel more experienced and comfortable talking about this spirit.
Because we had just tried a whole bunch of great Kentucky straight bourbon, I thought it would be nice to demonstrate how the ratio of ingredients makes a difference. For our second meeting, we drank American rye whiskeys.
Rye doesn’t have all the same legal restrictions of bourbon. The age can be much shorter, and the mash is a different composition. It must, however, have at least 51% rye whereas bourbon must be made of at least 51% corn. Much like bourbon, rye must be aged in new charred barrels. (Click here to see TTP info). Rye tends to be a bit sweeter than corn, and some of us identified the tendency to be kind of potpourri-like. As a note, we had 7 tasters this round and scores are based on averages from the whole group. Cost are derived from the Oregon Liquor monthly alpha price list.
Anyway, here are the reviews:
Russel’s 6 year Rye – Overall – 6.8/10 – burn – 4.3/10
(Specs) 6 year aged | 45% or 90 proof | 750 ML $44.95
(Distiller) Wild Turkey, Kentucky
(Notes) For the most part, everyone said, “smokey.” Other common notes included sweet (though only toward the end, not so much at the beginning), spicy, and peppery.
(Finish) The consensus was that the flavor was consistent throughout. There wasn’t a distinct aftertaste, or anything special that seemed different.
(Thoughts) We all enjoyed this one, but we weren’t necessarily impressed. I could see buying it again, but probably not for the price and likely to mix. It wasn’t the favorite, but nobody hated it.
Old Potrero – Overall – 7.6/10 – burn – 2.3/10
(Specs) 3 year aged | 61.5% or 123 proof | 750 ML $49.95
(Distiller) Anchor Distilling, San Francisco
(Notes) There were a lot of notes, so I’ll just list them all. Everyone did agree that there was a distinct initial, middle, and aftertaste that were all unique, but nobody agreed on what each part was most like. It was a very unique experience.
From most repeated to least: Smooth, sweet, vanilla, nutty, cedar, pine, flowery,nutmeg, potpourri, smells like old curtains, smells like an antique store.
(Finish) Unique, different than the beginning. Easy, lingering.
(Thoughts) Old Potrero is made by a company that makes a wonderful beer. It’s a 100% rye whiskey, meaning there are no other grains involved. It was a very singular experience and unlike any of the other liquors we drank.
1776 Straight Rye – Overall – 6.2 – burn – 4.8
(Specs) year aged not specified | 50% or 100 proof | 750 ML $39.95
(Distiller) James E. Pepper, Kentucky
(Notes) This is a really dark rye, and it comes in at 90% rye. Here are the group’s collective notes, from most common to most unique.
Spicy, dark, rich, peppery, like an old cigar humidor, cloves, black tea
(Finish) Clean, no aftertaste. The flavor is bold but doesn’t linger on the pallet. It’s gone quickly.
(Thoughts) This is the perfect rye to have with a cigar. In fact, we had some cigars and this is the liquor we chose to go with the tobacco after the tasting was over. To really solidify things, we still had quite a bit of the bourbon from the last meet, and we chose this rye over those as well to go with a cigar.
Eagle Rare – Overall – 6.6 – burn – 4.2
(Specs) at least 10 year aged, not precise | 45% or 90 proof | 750 ML $29.95
(Distiller) Buffalo Trace Distillery, Kentucky
(Notes) This is obviously not a rye, but we liked Buffalo Trace so much the previous month I decided we needed to try it. Here’s what everyone said –
Caramel, vanilla, sweet, lightly oaken, honey, smooth.
(Finish) Unique from the initial taste. Notes of rose, cinnamon, and pepper
(Thoughts) If you see this next to Buffalo Trace and the price is no more than a few bucks more, go with Eagle Rare. We all enjoyed it and were astounded that we only ended up paying a few dollars more for a bottle. Given the option, we choose Eagle Rare hands down.