Sunday, February 28, 2021

Michter's Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Straight Rye - 2020


- $70
- 109.2 Proof
- Barrel No. 20H1738
- Kentucky

Three years ago Michter's followed up their annual Toasted Barrel Bourbon with their Toasted Barrel Rye. Up to that point, I had only heard about the Toasted Barrel Bourbon, but had never gotten my hands on it. When I got my chance to grab a rye, I remember being thrilled at the chance. And once I opened it, I was even more thrilled at just how damn good it was!! Even three years later I still remember that bottle and just how much I really loved it.

Of course, from there Michter's went back to the Toasted Barrel Bourbon, and they even released a Toasted Barrel Sour Mash. But this past year, they went back to the Toasted Barrel Rye well, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Once it was announced I put all my feelers out there to make sure that I got my hands on a bottle, and luckily for me it paid off. It's not every time that I get a new bottle that I open it right away, but that was absolutely the case here.

The nose on this one was soft and mellow. I got the traditional notes of brown sugar and vanilla. There was also the anticipated light note of pine, as well as a decent amount of cinnamon spice. I did get a sort of salted caramel note, however, that seemed to take over more and more as I made my way through the bottle, which I really enjoyed.

That caramel note really seemed to carry over to the flavor, but with a slight twist. It was almost like a spiced caramel. In addition to the rich, sugary sweetness of the caramel, it also had a nice spicy mix of black pepper and cinnamon. It was a great mix of sweet and heat, something that to me defines a good rye.

It had a light woodiness to it, that betrayed some age, though not a lot, and it certainly wasn't enough to dry it out at all. It was, without question, a sweeter rye whiskey. However, the light notes of pine and that mix of pepper and cinnamon was enough to keep it from being overly sweet.

On the final few pours I was consistently getting a flavor that was familiar to me, but I just wasn't able to place it. Eventually, though, it hit me, and I was definitely getting a prominent note of pancakes with maple syrup. It's at this point that the spice really took a back seat and that it truly became a sweet rye. It was still delicious, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't quite what I loved about the first 3/4ths of the bottle.

It's possible I built this one up to much in my mind. It's also possible that this one simply wasn't as good as the first run. That said, that first run set the bar very high, and I can't say that I was necessarily expecting it to get over that bar. That said, this was still a fantastic whiskey, one which I had a hard time saving, despite how much I may have wanted to. I hope Michter's continues to make this, as, at least in my mind, it's the best of the toasted barrel offerings.

Grade: A-

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Waterford Irish Single Malt Whiskey - An Experiment in Terroir?

You may have noticed a recent addition to the Irish Whiskey aisle at your local retailer. In fact, given the bright blue package and very sleek and modern look, the Waterford Irish Single Malts really stick out amongst all the other earth-toned Irish whiskeys. They really are eye-catching. But, when a friend of mine offered to send me some samples to try, I had to admit I didn't know much more about Waterford than that.

So, while I waited for this package of sample bottles to arrive, I checked out what Waterford was all about, and, quite frankly, it's worth a look --  Waterford is not just a distillery, but a whiskey "project."  According to their website, Waterford sourced 86 Irish farms, including organic and biodynamically run farms, growing barley on 19 different soil types. While sourcing this grain, Waterford is tracking and recording it every step of the way, taking note of everything from the date of harvest to the date of distillation and even the soil type. The goal appears to be to establish or, perhaps better stated, to demonstrate each whiskey's terroir--something traditionally associated with wine, not whiskey.

What I didn't realize until I actually had these samples in hand, however, is that each whiskey comes with its own "Teireoir Code." By entering each code on Waterford's web site, I then was completely inundated with information about that whiskey and the grains used to make it. I was honestly floored at just how much information is made available to the consumer. For instance, the very first piece of information is the name of the grower of the barley, followed by information relating to the date the barley was harvested, the date the whiskey was distilled, the length of maturation down to the day, and the number of bottles produced.

As you scroll through each page, you get background on the particular farm where the barley was grown, audio of the wind blowing and birds chirping at the farm (not sure that it was necessary to hear the farm, but a fun little interactive aspect), and even a complete timeline of the barley from the date sown to the date harvested to the date of distillation to the date of bottling. You even get a picture of a cross-section of the soil.  Admittedly, this was certainly more information than I have ever asked for or felt I needed. And some of the farm descriptions come across as a bit hokey and fluffy. But, there is no question that what Waterford is doing differently from everybody else is not only tracking every detail of their whiskey, from grain to bottle, but providing all of that information to the consumer. And it really was fun looking up each Teireoir Code as I sampled each of these whiskeys.

But of course, all the information in the world doesn't mean much unless the product is good.  Each of these whiskeys is fairly young, with none being over 4 years, and they come with a healthy price tag approaching $100 per bottle. So, going in I felt each of these whiskeys had some work to do.

Dunbell 1.1
 - 100 Proof
 - 3 yrs., 8 mos., 26 days
 - 6,000 Bottles
 - Single Farm Origin
 - Terroir Code: F022E01-01

This was the first of the whiskeys that we tried, and it was the last one I went to when I re-visited them. The nose on this one was absolutely delicious, and I probably spent more time nosing this one than any of the others. It had delicious rich aromas of apricot and brandy, with a brown sugar and honey sweetness. It also had a bit of a cereal note, like Cheerios, as well as some light smokiness.

The flavor, unfortunately, wasn't quite as good. Right away I got notes of white peppercorn spice and that Cheerios flavor I got on the nose. It was very grain forward in its profile, and many of those notes I loved on the nose, like the apricot and brandy, were missing from the flavor. There was also something a bit off-putting, like a garlic note. This one really could have used more sweetness on the palate to provide a little bit of balance or nuance. Instead it came across as a bit of a one-trick pony, and that one-trick wasn't that impressive.

Dunmore 1.1
 - 100 Proof
 - 3 yrs., 11 mos., 17 days
 - 13,000 Bottles
 - Single Farm Origin
 - Terroir Code: F017E01-01

This was the second whiskey I tried, and the first thing I noticed was the difference in the nose. Rather than sweet and rich, this one actually had some earthiness to it, almost like coffee grounds. It still had that honey sweetness, but also a bit of a blackberry note. There was also a sweet, cashew-like nuttiness to it, as well as just a bit of peppery spice. 

The flavor on this one was more Scotch-like to me and was certainly barley forward. The most prominent notes were honey and graham cracker, and my immediate thought was that I liked this one substantially more than the first. It had that earthy tone that I got on the nose, kind of like coffee grounds but without the coffee bitterness. The finish provided some nice pepper spice, as well as a bit of a tree-fruit flavor, like baked pear. It seemed to finish off with a light and crisp lemongrass note. This one was my favorite for most of the night, that is until I revisited the next one.

Rathclough 1.1
 - 100 Proof
 - 3 yrs., 11 mos., 26 days
 - 13,000 Bottles
 - Single Farm Origin
 - Terroir Code F016E01-01

The nose on this one was even more earthy than the Dunmore. The coffee ground note was more prominent, but it also shared space with rich brown sugar and baked apples. It had a nice black pepper spice that tickled my nose, but really it was that earthy scent that set this apart from the other three whiskeys, and noticeably so.

When I first sipped this whiskey, I immediately noticed something funky, almost medicinal and smoky all at once. I likened it to Agricole rums, which honestly, I'm not much of a fan of. It even had what I described as a musty flavor to it, like a damp forest.  Behind that, though were brighter notes of banana, along with counter-balancing notes of orange peel and chocolate. This all sounds weird, I know, but it was intriguing and the one that I most wanted to re-visit. Upon revisiting, I ultimately determined that this was my favorite whiskey of the four. That mustiness somehow worked really well with the banana and the bitter orange peel. It had great balance of sweet, smoke, bitter and earthiness, and it was unquestionably interesting and intriguing. This was the most funky of the four whiskeys and the most fun. 

Gaia 1.1
 - 100 Proof
 - 3 yrs., 9 mos., 20 days
 - 24,000 Bottles
 - Arcadian Series - Organic
 - Terroir Code OR01E01-01

The nose on this one was very much fruit forward, and it was more in the citrus family of fruit. I got a healthy dose of caramel, immediately followed by bright notes of apricot and orange. There was a bit of graham cracker and, much like the others, a coffee note (pretty much the one consistency among all of these).  However, it was very sweet, like a coffee latte or a caramel pastry. 

Though it may be splitting hairs a bit, the sweetness in the flavor was more of a brown sugar note than a caramel note. I did get a bit of cherry as well, along with some orange peel, and that gave of a bit of an old fashioned flavor. However, it definitely was the sweetest of the four whiskeys, and I even got a vanilla frosting note.  I think it was that sweetness that really appealed to some of my colleagues who loved this one. On re-visiting this one, while it remained very sweet, the orange peel came across a bit solvent-like to me. 

Final Thoughts . . .

Though each one is different, when you're in a setting like I was, with four different people trying four different whiskeys, you can't help but compare and rank them. It's only human nature. For me, I ended up absolutely loving the Rathclough, and the Dunmore was a close second. The Dunbell just didn't do it for me.  And yet everyone in my group seemed to have different favorites. One other guy agreed with me as to the Rathclough. However, one absolutely loved the Gaia, yet hated the Dunmore. And the fourth guy picked the Dunmore as his favorite. As always, different strokes for different folks.

But, it was absolutely fun going through each of these whiskeys, learning all there is to possibly know about each, and even finding new whiskeys that I absolutely enjoyed! It appears as though Waterford plans on churning out new whiskeys on a regular basis, and, if our little tasting demonstrates anything, it's that there is something to terroir in whiskey. Each of these, despite being distilled at the same place, by the same people and matured for the same amount of time, was completely distinct, some with almost no similarity to the others. I know I'm not going to love them all, but if this sampling showed me anything it's that Waterford can produce some really interesting and delicious whiskey.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Lot No. 40 Binny's Custom Blended Cask Strength Canadian Rye Whisky

- $70
- 114 Proof
- 3rd Edition
- Canada

I'm not necessarily a Canadian Rye enthusiast. I've certainly enjoyed plenty a pour of the stuff, from Whistlepig to Collingwood to even regular Lot No. 40.  Admittedly, I've never considered myself a big fan of Canadian rye. To me it has always been on the sweeter side, and I tend to prefer rye for its spiciness. I also find that I frequently get almost an artificial brown sugar note, enough so that it's a flavor I now associate with Canadian ryes.

That said, even though it may not be my most favorite profile, I do actually like regular Lot No. 40 rye. It's softer, for sure, but it generally has good flavor and just a touch of soft spice. So, when I saw a bottle of the Cask Strength on the shelf, the first I've ever come across a bottle, I figured what the hell and grabbed one. The reviews I've read were mixed, but to be fair, those reviews were posted in bourbon groups, so there was no doubt some inherent bias there. I wanted to see for myself just how good the cask strength version is.

On the nose, the first thing I noticed was that brown sugar note. Like I said above, it's kind of an artificial brown sugar. Kind of like brown sugar and peanuts. It also had a rich, earthy molasses type sweetness to it, along with some cinnamon spice. That cinnamon spice actually reminded me of those heavily scented pinecones they sell at the grocery store around Christmas.

The flavor was a bit different than expected, however.  I did get a brown sugar note, but it didn't come across as artificial. In fact, it came across more earthy, like brown sugar and leather. It also came across a bit buttery (at least in flavor, not necessarily in texture).

What struck me most about this was that it had a very rye bread quality to it. The rye was there, but it was almost yeasty, like a good, rich, dark bread. In fact, on later pours it reminded me a lot of a nice thick stout.

The finish had some light wood tannins as well as a warm cinnamon spice. The leather was there on the finish as well, along with a slight smoky note which was quite welcome. This was all well and good, but there was also a strange note that lingered on my tongue for a bit, kind of like orange flavored hard candy.

All in all, this was a good whiskey, albeit a bit odd. However, what was odd about it was actually kind of enjoyable. It was like a dirtier version of a typical Canadian rye, and I mean that in a good way. It may seem odd as you read this. Heck, it seemed odd as I wrote this, but it really was pretty good in its own funky, earthy way. At the very least, it was pretty unique.

Grade: B

Saturday, February 20, 2021

High West A Midwinter Nights Dram Blended Straight Rye Whiskey - Act 8, Scene 3


- $90
- 98.6 Proof
- Act 8, Scene 3
- Utah

Let me just start by saying that the Dram is my jam! In fact, when I reviewed Act 3, Scene 2 nearly five years ago, I thought it was one of the best things I had ever tasted! Of course, since then people have caught on, the price has gone up (though not too much compared to other products) and the demand has certainly increased. That's no surprise given that it's a limited release, that it's done so well, and that it's probably priced just about right.

I honestly haven't been out hunting for these bottles when they've been released. I've had the Midwinter Nights Dram many times, mostly while skiing in Utah. But, my local manager knows my preference for rye whiskeys, and she was kind enough to set one of these aside for me, without me even asking, knowing I'd appreciate getting my hands on one. And appreciate it I did! After all, it's been almost five years since I got to enjoy my own bottle!

As would be expected from a port finished whiskey, the nose was rich and pungent. The wine notes really came through, with notes of blackberry and plum. There was also a distinct raisin note. Aside from those fruit notes, I also got some rich dessert like notes, like dark chocolate and brown sugar. In one word, this smelled rich, and I could tell I was headed for more of a dessert-like whiskey here. 

The flavor very much followed suit. Those rich, dark fruits absolutely took center stage. I was getting all sorts of these flavors, from plums and dates to black raspberry to currant. It had a richness and a brightness to it all at once. What's more is these fruit notes did not make it overly sweet, but rather provided some good balance in that sense.

The dark chocolate from the nose also came through pretty heavily, offering a very light sweetness, but more of a richness balanced out by some much needed bitter notes. I also got an earthy walnut note that seemed to fit in perfectly with everything.

The finish was not as long as I had expected or hoped. However, it was on the finish that I found myself thinking of Christmas. I was getting brown sugar, raisin and even a bit of maple syrup. It definitely had a fruit cake character to it. 

If I have one knock on this, though, is that the rye notes didn't seem to shine like I remembered them doing in the past. What I've normally loved about this whiskey is that balancing of the spicy rye with the sweet and rich port flavors, and here the rye spice just seemed to take a back seat. Don't get me wrong, this was still a fantastic whiskey, and once I popped the cork I couldn't put the bottle down. I just wanted a bit more of the rye to come through is all

Grade: A-

Friday, February 19, 2021

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Special Release Barrel Proof Tennessee Rye Whiskey

- $70
- 132 Proof
- Barrel No. 20-06945
- Tennessee

It's been a while since I've been truly excited for a new release to the point that I put my feelers out there early that I was after a bottle. It was to the point that even my local liquor store guy commented that he hadn't seen me chasing after a bottle quite like I did for this one. But, those efforts paid off, as he let me know as soon as this came in and he set one aside for me.

I've had the Jack Daniel's Heritage Barrels in the past. That was their typical annual limited edition release, and that was absolutely delicious! For 2020, it is almost as though Brown Forman had been listening to its fans, who have been clamoring for the Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Ryes to be released at cask strength. Even before I got my hands on my bottle, I saw a lot of hype and love for this bottle, so I was pretty amped to give it a try.

On the nose I got a lot of pine notes along with a healthy amount of soft vanilla. It had a certain sweetness to it as well, like honey. But it also had a darker, richer sweetness as well, like molasses, which I thought was kind of interesting. I also got a darker cherry note, kind of like a Luxardo cherry. It smelled good, but nothing mind-blowing here.

However, what it may have lacked on the nose it made up for in the flavor. I immediately noticed the nice, thick, viscous texture of this whiskey. My mouth was immediately coated with an almost oily residue of flavor. I also immediately noticed that this rye was on the sweeter end of the rye spectrum, but yet it still had that punchiness that I love.

It was a very caramel forward rye. I got some of those pine notes from the nose, as well as a rich cinnamon note that you'd expect from a good rye. But the caramel note seemed to take centerstage and the other flavors were complementary. I also got a consistent undercurrent of soft and not really sweet vanilla.

On the finish the spice really came through. The sweet caramel seemed to take more of a back seat and I was left with delicious notes of cinnamon and black pepper spice. It wasn't anything that burned or was offensive in any way, but rather it simply made my mouth water a bit and made me eager for that next sip.

On later pours, some of the more traditional rye flavors seemed to pop a bit. I got a bit of a tannic oak note, and the pine and cinnamon seemed to come forward a bit. But it always had that undercurrent of soft caramel to balance everything out.

This really was everything I look for in a rye--nice viscous mouthfeel, high proof, and a great balance of spicy and sweet. In fact, after opening this bottle and trying it, I made it a point to track down a backup bottle, something I rarely do. But I just had to have one of these in reserves, it was that good.

Grade: A

Friday, February 12, 2021

Four Roses Small Batch Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $45
- 104 Proof
- Kentucky

It's not often that a bottle will have particular sentimental value to me, but when one does, it seems to stick. It's often tied to a memory or event, good or bad, that that particular bottle is forever associated with. George T. Stagg has always been one of those bottles for me, tied to events and circumstances in my life that I'll forever remember. And every time I come across George T. Stagg, I'm brought right back there.

In this particular instance, I got to try Four Roses Small Batch Select back when it was first introduced to the market. In fact, it was even before it was available here in Illinois.  I had the luck to score tickets to a tasting with the late, great Al Young at Warehouse Liquors in Chicago. The event was, in part, to promote some new barrel picks that Warehouse had just gotten in, but it was also part of Al's tour promoting the new product. We got to taste this bourbon, as well as four different private picks and the 130th Anniversary Small Batch. Needless to say it was a hell of a night and one that I'll never forget. I had so much fun spending time with Al Young, and seeing this bottle actually makes me a little sad because it just reminds me that he passed away shortly thereafter.

However, a good friend of mine gave me this bottle (I actually never bought my own), and now I finally have the chance to give it the review it deserves.  The nose had a lot of cinnamon, providing a sweet spiciness, along with a nice layer of vanilla. It had some chocolate notes as well, and, oddly enough, I swear I got the aroma of a snack cake, like a Twinkie.  It smelled absolutely delicious.

On my first sip, the first thing I noticed was the texture. I noticed this when I had it the first time as well, and that is that this bourbon does not drink at its proof. The alcohol burn is almost non-existent, which is surprising for a 104 proof whiskey. That may appeal to some and not to others. To me, it was simply dangerous, as that proof tended to hit me harder than expected.

As to flavor, it was a bit different than what I was getting on the nose. I got a decent amount of the traditional toffee and vanilla notes. I did get the chocolate I got from the nose, but it wasn't nearly as sweet. It was more of a dark chocolate note, even with a touch of that bitterness.

It had a light cinnamon note to it, like cinnamon candy. But, what struck me more was the ginger that I got out of this. It had a distinct gingerbread note to it that, once I noticed it, I couldn't not notice. There was also a bit of oak to add to that bitter, dry quality as well.

The finish was even a bit different still. There I got a cherry note that I didn't find elsewhere. It was a sweeter cherry, and even with a touch of liqueur, kind of like a cherry cordial. It was on the finish that the cinnamon spice seemed to really come through as well.

This bourbon was unquestionably complex, and it did seem to go in a number of directions.  When I had it the first time, I was, admittedly, a bit underwhelmed. However, that my have been due to the fact that this pour was immediately preceded by the 130th Anniversary, which was incredible. This time around, while it still came across a bit more watery than expected, it also had a lot more going on from a flavor standpoint, and I certainly enjoyed it a lot more. It's certainly one I'd recommend to anyone that hasn't tried it yet. 

Grade: B+

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Widow Jane Whiskey Distilled From a Rye Mash Oak & Apple Wood Aged

- $35 (375 ml)
- 91 Proof
- Batch #33
- New York

This was the second bottle from the two-pack of 375 ml bottles that my wife bought me a short while back. The other one was the 10 Year Blended Bourbon.  I do love that my wife bought me this two-pack. Honestly, I don't know that I would have ever gotten around to grabbing a bottle of this off the shelf. While it sounds interesting, aged in oak and apple wood and all, it's just not so interesting that I've felt I needed to try it.

But, when someone gifts me a bottle, my curiosity is going to get the best of me every time, and I'm going to give it a whirl. If nothing else, it gives me something new to write about here. So, despite that I never really had a great desire to try this in the first instance, and despite that it came in a weird little skinny bottle, I, of course, nonetheless cracked it open and enjoyed it pour after pour until it was gone.

The nose on this was actually pretty good. It was light and crisp, with notes of caramel and vanilla and a consistent undercurrent of pear. It did have a bit of a bread or cracker note to it, like a plain wafer cracker, but it also had a touch of black pepper and cinnamon to tickle my nose a bit and keep it interesting. 

The first thing I noticed upon my first sip was that it was very drinkable and, dare I say, smooth. The proof is somewhat low, but not so low that it should come across as completely watered down. But, it was certainly a softer whiskey, with few sharp edges and also not a lot of punch. So, good and bad.

The flavor was very vanilla forward, kind of like a French vanilla flavor. I'm not sure what makes French vanilla different from regular, but there's definitely a difference, and that's what I noticed here. Along with the vanilla, the other more prominent note was a crisp fruit note. But, it wasn't that apple note that I so often get with a young whiskey (I have no idea how old this one was), but rather more of a pear note. I think this is what made it so drinkable, because it was crisp and almost refreshing.

What was disappointing, though, was the lack of any rye spice. If I'm grabbing a rye off the shelf, I'm doing so because I want a rye. I want those flavors and spices that I get from a rye. Give me the pickle and pine, the cinnamon and brown sugar. Here, all I got was vanilla and pear. I did get some nice cinnamon and pepper on the nose, but that was noticeably absent in the flavor.

The last few pours of this were very sweet, almost as though the nectar from the pear had somehow settled at the bottom. And those sips were almost entirely that pear note. I don't know if it came from the apple wood that it was aged in or the unnamed source of the "rye mash" itself (the label doesn't actually call this a rye whiskey), but that was nearly all I got.

Again, this was very easy to drink, but that only gets me so far. I want flavor, I want complexity, and with a rye, or even something "distilled from a rye mash," I want spice.  And this had none of that. So, I was glad I got to try it, but I'm also glad that I was justified in not reaching for it sooner.

Grade: C-

Monday, February 8, 2021

Old Fitzgerald 15 Year Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $160
- 100 Proof
- 15 Years
- Kentucky

I think these may be the fanciest bottles on the market. They're certainly up there. And while my brain tells me that it's just fancy packaging that doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of the whiskey inside, nonetheless when I walk up to the counter and see this bottle on the shelf behind the clerk, I'm still immediately drawn to it. So that fancy packaging apparently works.

That said, I also felt very comfortable that the whiskey inside was going to be very good as well. Not only has each release received great reviews generally, but the ones I've actually tried I've really enjoyed, particularly when I've had the pleasure of trying some of the older bottlings. So, I went ahead and grabbed this one, the oldest of the releases, despite the very hefty price tag it carried.

The nose was light and soft--I'd almost describe it as fluffy. It was full of soft vanilla and smooth milk chocolate aromas.  There was a bit of cherry licorice, which combined with the vanilla and chocolate, certainly had this smelling like a sweeter bourbon. That said, I also got some light oak and even some peanut flavor to add a touch of earthiness. It was, without question, though, on the sweeter end.

The flavor was much the same, though the chocolate really came through. This is what the cool kids would call a "chocolate bomb." That soft, creamy milk chocolate note was really at the forefront whether on the front end or the finish, whether on the first pour or the last.

There was certainly some vanilla as well, along with some cherry notes. But, the cherry came across more as real cherry than the fake cherry licorice note, which certainly was an improvement in my book. At times I got sweet notes of white chocolate as well to really help round this out as a dessert whiskey.

Most notable with this bourbon, though, was the texture. It had such a soft and silky texture that it seemed to make those other notes that much more enjoyable. Giving that silky feel to the notes of chocolate and vanilla really made those flavors seem more decadent. It also helped those flavors stick around for a while, as it left an almost buttery coat of flavor behind.

Other notes came through, including a light bready or yeast-like note that was kind of lingering in the background, and on later pours I was noticing some nice amaretto and anise notes that were light and subtle but certainly worked with everything else going on here.

As I'm making notes while working through any given bottle, I have a grade I plan on giving that bottle in the back of my mind, and it's not always static. In this case, with every pour I seemed to like this bourbon more and more, and by the last few pours, in my mind this was an absolutely killer bottle. This is well-worth seeking out a pour, in my estimation.

Grade: A

Monday, February 1, 2021

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye

- $35
- 90.4 proof
- Batch 009
- Kentucky

It seems a bit odd that I've reviewed as many different whiskeys as I have, but that I've never reviewed the Woodford Reserve Rye. I love rye, and I tend to drink a lot of it.  In fact, I've had Woodford Reserve Rye many times over the years. Granted, most of the time it's in a cocktail, but nonetheless, it's not a whiskey I'm unfamiliar with. But I've just never had a bottle to myself, one that I could finish and eventually write one of these reviews. At least until now.

Luckily for me, I didn't have to worry about always finding something better to buy. Rather, this bottle came to me, free of charge, as a gift from my father-in-law. While he may have had more selfish reasons for leaving this bottle at my house, it nonetheless became mine and I got to drink it, which is what matter most. So, while this seems like a big gap as far as whiskeys that I haven't yet reviewed are concerns, at least this one gap is now getting filled.

I got a lot of the traditional rye notes on the nose, with a light pine note paired with a healthy amount of brown sugar. It also had a light cinnamon, but not in a spicy way. More like in a cinnamon roll way. In fact, it smelled sweet, almost like a wheated bourbon. However, it also had a certain musty quality to the nose that tended to turn me off -- kind of like a damp basement smell.

I thought it had a sweet nose, and the palate was even sweeter. I still got a lot of the brown sugar that I was getting form the nose. However, I also got a healthy amount of maple syrup. It tasted a bit like the gooey middle of a pecan pie.

It did have a light oak quality to it, to help offset the sweetness a touch, but even that seemed almost on the sweeter side. It also had that same cinnamon note I got on the nose, once again not really adding any spice, just that cinnamon flavor. There was also a good amount of bread notes. I was reminded of a honey wheat bread.

The maple syrup seemed to stick around the most on the finish. Some of oak stuck around as well, and on the finish actually added that bit of dryness that was missing everywhere else. 

Overall, it's a flavor I've known, I just never got my own bottle, and this is probably why. It's just not what I look for in a rye whiskey. When I reach for a rye, I want something that's going to give me some spice, and this simply had none. Rather, it was just a sweet whiskey, and often it proved to be too sweet for my tastes. That said, I do feel like I now need to go and grab all those other "mainstay" whiskeys on the shelves that I just haven't gotten around to buying and reviewing. Perhaps it's time to start filling in those gaps.

Grade: C+