Sunday, August 20, 2017

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey

- $35
- 100 Proof
- 2 Years
- Region: Indiana (bottled in Kentucky)

This is one of those whiskeys that I've seen pretty regularly on the shelves, but frequently passed it over for no reason in particular. For a long time I knew little about it, and I guess that was reason enough. As someone who is a fan of MGP ryes, however, having happened upon a list of Non-Distilling Producers that are bottling MGP's product and seeing James E. Pepper 1776 Rye on the list, I then figured, what do I have to lose?

It's only a two-year rye, so my expectations going in weren't great, regardless of where it came from. On the nose I got a LOT of alcohol. It's not a super-high proofer, so that was quite off-putting, and it was pretty difficult to get past.

Once I was able to get past that alcohol smell, though, I was able to notice some distinct cherry and vanilla on the nose. Unfortunately, though, that alcohol smell made it very hard to enjoy what should otherwise have been some very pleasant aromas.

On the palate it had some harsh and rough edges. The cherry and vanilla flavors were there, even at times reminding me of a cherry Coca-Cola. The cherry was more dominant on the palate than on the nose, and it brought a significant sweetness to it, kind of like maraschino cherries.

There was a light, peppery spice on the back end to compliment that sweet, syrupy cherry flavor, but the finish was short and unremarkable. Any flavors I found myself enjoying seemed to disappear almost immediately.

On later pours I got some further notes that made this an interesting pour. Orange peel came through, giving some (not sure the word I'm looking for here . . . character? substance?) to the bitterness that I didn't really like at first. It sort of gave that bitterness a reason for being there, a purpose, rather than just being bitter for bitterness' sake.

In the end, though, this is a young, rough rye. It's interesting at times, but those times were fleeting, and ultimately those rough edges never seemed to smooth out. In the end it was a somewhat one dimensional pour, lacking any robustness or complexity. While I really enjoyed the unique, cherry cola flavor, it just wasn't enough for me.

Grade: C+

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