Category Archives: Rye

Buffalo Trace, White Dog, Rye Mash, 62.5%

For International Poitin Day I’ve decided to go – well – International!

Now Poitin is an Irish term.

It denotes a raw, unaged distillate made using unspecified grains & conjures up all sorts of folklore and fancy tales.

Across the water in America it goes by a different name – Moonshine – or in this instance – White Dog.

There are similarities in style, manufacture and fairytale – as well as music.

What drew me to this example however was the Rye Mash label.

I do like a drop of hot spice!

At 62.5% – or 125 proof – this White Dog doesn’t disappoint.

The clean clear colourless liquid has an oily, softly sweet yet sour corn nose with a hint of peppery spice.

It’s surprisingly gentle – even smooth to begin with. The corn & barley mash pulls you in before a growing dry peppery spice takes over with a big hit of alcohol.

The dryness lasts through to the finish which is complemented by yet more spice & prickly heat from the high strength.

The rye, corn & barley mash brings a degree of complexity to this essentially simple style of distillate.

I find it fascinating tasting raw spirit like this before the maturation in wood adds more colour, flavour & depth to the mix.

It’s how our forebearers would have enjoyed their whiskey.

Enjoy your International Poitin Day!

Sláinte

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Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye, 43%

I got fierce excited at last years Whiskey Live Dublin over the opportunity to sample an Irish rye whiskey that was still maturing in Kilbeggan Distillery.

The bottle was filled straight from the cask at over 60% ABV & presented non chill filtered without added caramel.

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When will this stunner be released? c/othewhiskeynut

It was powerful – yet the mashbill of malted & unmalted barley together with a high rye content displayed that wonderful peppery rye spiciness with a smooth & creamy barley influence.

Almost a year on the production bottle has been released in time for Whiskey Live Dublin 2018 – as well as picking up a Gold Medal at the recently held Irish Whiskey Awards.

As a self confessed rye fan I picked up a bottle in the distillery on my return from the highly enjoyable awards evening at Slane Castle.

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Small Batch Rye calling card c/othewhiskeynut

Now the bottle design is rather muted & understated. There are some lovely tasting notes on the back label – an unexplained handshake logo on the neck – and a nod to the historical inclusion of rye in Irish whiskey making from times past.

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The back label c/othewhiskeynut

I fully welcome the return of rye to the modern Irish whiskey scene.

On the nose it’s very soft, slightly sweet with just a hint of peppery spice that signifies the rye content.

The palate is also very silky & smooth. The barley content dominates the initial experience before that black pepper spiciness – which I love – kicks in to leave a wonderfully drying mouthfeel at the end which slowly fades away.

At 43% & with added caramel – which is found throughout the Kilbeggan range of whiskeys – I couldn’t help feeling some of the spark & vitality of that original cask sample had been lost a little in this more tame offering.

I just had to compare it with the Arbikie Highland Rye released late 2017 in Scotland.

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Ireland v Scotland Rye test c/othewhiskeynut

Now this is also a barley/rye mix – but there’s no unmalted barley – and the rye content is higher at 52%. It’s also younger at only 2 years old & has no added caramel or chill filtering. It’s bottled at 46%.

There is more pronounced rye on the nose.

The smoothness & creaminess of the barley belies it’s young age before a joyfully massively drying peppery spice explodes on the palate leaving a fabulously prickly finish.

I’m afraid to say – when it comes to rye – Scotland do it better.

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Blind Bourbon Tasting July 4th 2018

It seemed like a good idea.

An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour  & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.

Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.

Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.

I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.

To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.

To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I twinned an Aldi own brand  Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.

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Jack Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.

I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.

A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.

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Barton 1792 full collapse c/oCourier-Journal

The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.

1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

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1792 Small Batch Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.

To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.

The final offering was more of a fun product.

Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.

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Buffalo Trace White Dog c/othewhiskeynut

This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.

At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.

Sláinte.

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My thanks to Sean’s Bar Athlone for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Hi-Spirits Ireland for the kind donation of some fabulous bottles.

If you are interested in sampling any of the above contact either Whiskey Nut –  westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or Sean’s Bar itself – to arrange.

 

L for Luxembourg Whisky

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is L for Luxembourg Whisky.

I did visit Luxembourg – once – and missed a trick.

You see it has one of the lowest alcohol tax rates in Europe – and I’d already bought my baggage allowance worth of whisky in neighbouring Germany.

So here I am – visiting the highest point in Luxembourg (a nondescript little spot by the name of Kneiff at 560m, at least Buurgplaatz has a landmark building at 559m) – when I pop into a local garage for supplies.

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Buurgplaatz c/othewhiskeynut

Low and behold – a wide variety of European whiskies at affordable prices!

And then I find out Luxembourg has a farm based whisky distillery!

Not only that – they distill rye!

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Luxembourg Rye c/oDiedenacker

How did I miss that?

Sláinte.

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Header image courtesy of thetravellingstomach blog.

 

D For Danish Whisky

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is D for Danish Whisky.

is also for my downfall as I haven’t actually got round to tasting any of the fabulous whiskies that are made in Denmark.

More famous for it’s bacon than whisky – Denmark has around 14 distilleries either already producing whisky – or about to – according to the excellent Nordic Distillery Map by blogger Whisky Saga which you can view here.

Stauning Whisky would be the most recognised of these distilleries – and one I’d like to get my hands on – as it regularly wins awards and happens to be a style I particularly enjoy – rye!

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Stauning Young Rye c/oStauningWhisky

A return trip to Copenhagen might be in order. Especially as there is a distillery in the town handily named Copenhagen Distillery.

And another not too far away by the name of Braunstein.

It’s about time I got out a bit more!

Sláinte.

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I’d like to thank Stauning Whisky for the use of their photo in this blog.

Baltimore Whiskey Company – Epoch Rye, 50%

A while ago I visited this distillery. I wrote the following blog at the time – but never published it. As they will shortly be releasing the second batch of Baltimore Epoch Rye – I thought it timely. The previous batch sold out immediately. If you are looking for some – get down to the Baltimore Whiskey Company on April 28th 2018. Or be sorry you missed it!

March 2017

It was baltic in Baltimore.

Our trip to Maryland coincided with storm front Stella resulting in a dowsing of snow with icy winds that would cut you in two.

Thankfully the sun was shining and the Baltimore Whiskey Company had some warming whiskey to taste on the day I visited!

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Baltimore Shot Tower logo c/othewhiskeynut

Housed in an old industrial building just off Interstate 83 on Sisson Street near downtown Baltimore, the prominent & attractively designed Baltimore Whiskey Company logo announced you were in the right building.

Max & Eli – the other co-founder Ian was elsewhere – hadn’t made it in the previous day due to the storm, but were thankfully on hand when I called round to show me their distillery.

It very quickly became apparent that Baltimore Whiskey Company do things a little bit different to other start up whiskey distilleries.

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The homemade still c/othewhiskeynut

To begin with, their rather roughshod looking 250 gallon (1,000 ltr) copper still had been made by their own hands – partly copied on Lagavulin’s stills to produce a heavier & oilier distillate – as well as putting in all the electrics for the plant.

Very commendable.

The fact they are currently maturing a rye whiskey immediately reminded me of Peter Bignell at the Belgrove Distillery in Tasmania with his whole grain to glass, can do, make do & homemade kind of ethos.

The boys in Baltimore however don’t grow their own rye and source it elsewhere – but what they do do is rather special & unique. They use a mash-bill of 70% malted rye and 30% unmalted rye. A single pot still rye indeed!

And finally not only do they ‘keep it real’ by using only 53 gallon virgin oak barrels to mature that rye – they refuse to release a raw moonshine product and are prepared to sit on that rye for the full 2 years – or more – allowing it to be called a straight rye under US rules when eventually released.

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T-shirts c/othewhiskeynut

A very brave decision indeed when there must be financial pressure to realise some return on the initial distillery setup costs. Baltimore Whiskey Company do have a range of gins & apple brandies – as well as the usual array of branded T-shirts, caps & Glencairn glasses – to sell that go some way in plugging that gap though.

In the meantime – from a whiskey perspective – what is that pot still rye really like?

Fortunately I was privileged to be allowed a sample from one of the quietly maturing 53 gallon barrels that are stored on an upper level.

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Max pulls a sample from the cask c/othewhiskeynut

Taken straight from the cask at around 115 proof – 57.5% – and at slightly over 1 year old,  the liquid had already taken on a lovely rich dark brown colour.

There was still a slight new make nose present – sweaty socks or over-ripe fruit – but not overpowering – and for a 100% rye the rich dry spice hit I was expecting wasn’t ‘in yer face’, but a rather more gentle, softer, even rounder & complex experience.

The taste was deliciously smooth. Again the dry spice kick had a more balanced approach on the palate.

Max suggested this was the result of the unmalted rye used together with ageing in 53 gallon barrels – and who was I to disagree? The taste result certainly gave a different – yet welcoming – flavour profile to the other 1 year old 100% ryes I’ve sampled.

With that lovely long dry – yet slightly oily – soft rye spice finish still fading on my tongue I contemplated another 12 months in the barrel must surely iron out that new make nose, further deepen and balance that lovely rye spice as well as add some soft caramel & vanilla together with additional oaky tannins from the casks.

This is one expression to look out for in the future!

I’m very impressed with the whole ethos at Baltimore Whiskey Company.

The combination of hands on homemade ingenuity – the relaxed & casual welcome – a strong quality control desire to only release a product when deemed ready – a smart yet simple company logo using an iconic Baltimore building – these guys have all bases covered.

I raise a glass to their future success!

Sláinte.

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Puni Alba, Italian Single Malt, 43%

One of the joys about entering the An Pucan bar – just off Galway’s Eyre Square in the West of Ireland – is the wide array of whiskey available. Not only do they stock a marvelous selection of Irish – there is a healthy amount of other countries output too.

Italy is one of those countries. They also happen to be one of the Six Nations rugby teams that do battle every year – and as An Pucan is a sports bar – they show the game – as well as having the whiskey!

Puni is the first whisky distillery in Italy – and I was keen to sample one of their expressions.

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Puni Alba c/othewhiskeynut

This Puni Alba release is one of their earlier incarnations. An Pucan’s bottle is the original design – a very attractive & distinctive rectangular bottle at that. Later editions come in a more traditional – yet still very stylish – round shape which is used across the whole range. For me however – it’s the contents that count – so a glass was duly poured.

The nose came over with a rather unique profile. Soft & sweet with a lovely floral touch – yet slightly citric all at the same time. Very intriguing.

The taste started off suitably mellow, followed by a lovely growing heat with a little spicy kick. The floral sweetness developed into a cornucopia of flavour sensations that rolled around in the palate.

Very nice!

The finish was rather short – but left me wanting more!

Why had it taken me so long to try this gorgeous whisky?

On the side of the bottle some interesting information – which became clearer when enlarged – explained why I loved this expression so much.

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Fantastico! c/othewhiskeynut

Turns out it’s triple distilled using a mash of barley, wheat and – my pet love – rye! So that’s where the delightful spice comes from. The combination of these grains works extremely well in producing  a phalanx of beautiful flavours which just exploded in my mouth.

Heaven in a bottle!

Much like Linea 77 singing about La nuova musica Italiana – I want more nuova whisky Italiana!

It should go without saying this original bottling came non chill filtered with no added caramel – which raises the freshness, clarity & strength of the engaging flavours within.

Puni Whisky – a force to be reckoned with.

Sláinte.

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Pikesville Supreme, Straight Rye Whiskey, 40%

Pikesville was a small neighbourhood in Maryland USA. It is now consumed into Baltimore County and happens to be where some of my in-laws live.

Despite visiting last year – I never did get the chance to try the locally named brand.

Pikesville  – as well as Maryland in general – had a thriving rye whiskey business before prohibition. Only now is there a bit of a resurgence of that proud history with new distilleries entering the market.

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Pikesville Supreme Rye c/othewhiskeynut

This bottle in the meantime is made in Kentucky at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown – and when I spotted it on the shelves in Garavan’s – I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

Now ‘straight’ in American terms means aged for at least 2 years. ‘Rye’ means at least 51% rye is used in the all important mash bill  – the other 49% can be commonly made up of corn, wheat or barley. Added caramel is not permitted.

Rye is a style of whiskey I love.

I like the hit of spicy cinnamon & nutmeg followed through by a rich peppery dryness combined with some softer warming vanilla & caramel notes.

Pikesville Supreme only just had that rye kick. I found it very much muted by the other ingredients – which I suspected as being corn. This resulted in a warm vanilla led nose & taste with only a tingling of rye at the end.

An easy drinking approachable rye yes – but not what I’m craving.

My suspicions on the corn content were confirmed later by an internet search. The mash bill makes all the difference to the taste. In this instance Pikesville appears to have a mix of rye 51%, corn 37%, and barley 12% – which explains why it didn’t light up my life.

That’s not to say it’s a bad rye. In fact many are lamenting the loss of this particular bottling which has been replaced by a 6 year old 110 proof – 55% ABV – expression that might be more up my street. The Washington Post even covered the story here! 

So if you’re missing a taste of Maryland – head for Garavan’s in Galway!

Sláinte.

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Arbikie Highland Rye, 48%

Scotland 1     :     Ireland 0

At least that’s the situation when it comes to the race for rye.

Despite Kilbeggan sitting on a wonderful 6 year old pot still rye – as tasted at Whiskey Live Dublin here – Arbikie have released a 2 year old Highland Rye.

Being relative newcomers – Arbikie are not bound by ‘tradition’, ‘custom’ or ‘expectation’. This Highland Rye exists outside of the box that is Scottish Whisky Regulations – time for a musical interlude!

As such there is no mention of ‘whisky’ on the label.

Yet rye has always been an integral part of the whisky scene both in Scotland – as well as Ireland – and what Arbikie have done is simply to re-interpret a ‘tradition’ that has been neglected for over a century.

As a self confessed ‘rye head’ I couldn’t pass this up. A bottle was duly ordered.

It’s a bit pricey for 500ml – but the proceeds of the first 100 bottles go to a Motor Neurone charity here.

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Scottish Rye c/othewhiskeynut

I like the simplistic clarity of the no nonsense label – including the large Arbikie logo common throughout their Gin & Vodka range.

I like that Arbikie are a ‘single estate distillery’ using ingredients grown on the estate farm & fields.

And I like the additional information shown on the attractive label; grain variety, field grown in, cask type.  Shades of Mark Reynier at Waterford’s terroir here.

But most of all – I simply love the whole drinking experience of this rye.

4 of us variously sampled this first Scottish rye for over 100 years – so the following is an amalgamation of our findings.

A wonderful floral bouquet on the nose, hints of varnish, a soft to medium classic white peppery rye spice, warming vanilla & caramel notes from the charred American oak casks.

The taste was suitably smooth, the youthful rye punch delightfully muted by the barley content which added a gentle malt & slight oily influence to the drying rye spices in the well balanced mix.

The finish coated my mouth in that invigorating warm yet dry prickly feel I so enjoy after a great dram.

Superb.

If you only drink one rye this year – make it Arbikie Highland Rye.

Not only does it encapsulate all the classic rye attributes I love – it also adds a unique Scottish mix with the homegrown rye & barley.

A stunning return for Scottish rye.

Sláinte.

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