Saturday, April 29, 2023

Castle & Key The Woolgatherer Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Vino de Naranja Barrels

- $75
- 115.4 Proof
- Kentucky

On my most recent trip to Kentucky I made it a point to do the tour at Castle & Key. I had never been, and I was certainly eager to check out the grounds of the old E.H. Taylor distillery, and, of course, the castle itself.  I will say, that tour exceeded my expectations! The distillery and the grounds are absolutely beautiful!  They did an incredible job restoring that property!  And the history of the property is compelling and made for a really enjoyable tour!

Of course, at the end of the tour we took part in a tasting, and, oddly enough, I found I really liked their gin. But afterwards we perused the gift shop, and I saw this bottle on the shelf. Our tour guide saw me looking at it, and she offered to bring me back into the tasting room to try a sample. Needless to say, I was impressed not only with the flavor but the uniqueness of this whiskey, and a bottle made its way back to Illinois with me. 

This is not a super-high rye at 63%, so some of the sweeter notes were allowed to come through, and that was definitely the case with the nose. Right up front I got sweet notes of brown sugar and, not surprisingly, orange. It definitely had a bit of an old fashioned aroma to it, but with some vanilla added as well. I did not get "orange creamsicle," as the back label suggested, but it definitely had a nice nose.

Quite frankly, I didn't get the "orange creamsicle" in the flavor either, which was just fine by me, as I tend to avoid overly sweet whiskeys. And, quite frankly, initially my reaction to this whiskey was that it was just okay. But, this was one of those bottles that seemed to just get better with every pour.

Despite it not being a high-rye whiskey, it nonetheless had a healthy dose of cinnamon spice, both on the front end and the back end. That cinnamon spice was paired with a rich, brown sugar sweetness to keep it from ever getting either too spicy or too sweet.

Of course the orange was there, but again, not the sweet, artificial orange flavor, but rather bright and even slightly bitter orange peel, and even a bit of burnt orange. It definitely had that old fashioned quality to it, and it did, in fact, make for a pretty tasty old fashioned, leaning right into the Angostura bitters.

On the finish, the cinnamon spice certainly came through, and that burnt orange note lingered as well. But it was here that, while I don't believe this is a very aged whiskey, it provided some oak notes, a bit of earthiness and bitterness to continually balance the orange and brown sugar notes. 

I don't know that I'll come across this again, but this was a fun bottle to enjoy.  It was not only something different and unique, but it was really good! And by the time I got to the end of the bottle, I was a bit disappointed that it was over.

Grade: B+ 

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