Friday, September 28, 2018

Rye Hard

The Rye Hard line-up!
There was another first for the Manchester Whisky Club's September tasting: an evening of drinking rye. Tim had selected six drinks for us to sample and expand our whisky horizons, or should that be ho-rye-zons? (No)

Koval Rye Whiskey.
We started off with a rye from Koval, a distillery that was Chicago's first new one in more than a century when it was established in 2008. We tried their single barrel variety called simply Koval Rye Whiskey, the term rye whiskey meaning (in the US at least) a drink made from a mash of at least 51% rye.

The Koval got an enthusiastic response from most of the room straight away. "Chewy" offered a couple of drinkers, with definite bits of honey and maybe maple syrup in there too. The overwhelming taste was a peppery spiciness though. If you can find one still available it's £43 for a 50cl bottle, with an ABV of 40%. A strong start to the night!

We stayed with a Koval theme for dram number two. In this case, it was not a rye as such, but a bottle of the familiar Caol Ila Islay malt, finished in a Koval cask by independent bottler Valinch and Mallet for their Peaty DNA collection.

V&M Caol Ila 6yo.
Given the powerful smell and taste of Caol Ila, some in the room immediately wondered why the good people at V&M would bother doing this. It's not exactly drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa, but many thought that the rye taste from the cask struggled to really register.

We got sandalwood and vanilla and the whisky was certainly smokier than you'd expect. There were mixed views, with some positive comments but others not keen at all ("it's gross!"), while someone suggested it might go down better alongside a cigar. The 6yo whisky bottled in 2011 came in at 47.2% and costs £73.

We moved from Scotland to the Netherlands for the third whisky of the night, and a rye offering from the Millstone label, produced by the Zuidam distillery.

Millstone 100 Rye.
On this occasion it was a Millstone 100 Rye, so named because everything to do with it was 100 something or other. So it was 100 proof, 100 months old (that's eight and a bit years to you and me) and so on. Perhaps most notably was the fact it was 100% rye grain, quite rare because it is considered a difficult distilling challenge for chemical reasons that were explained but which I can't quite bring to mind right now.

As for the actual whisky, the nose was great, the palate a little less so. On the nose we got something really fragrant and complex, with all sorts coming through including orange, brown sugar and, in my case, a waxy lump of Edam (although as someone pointed out, perhaps my Dutch stereotypes were already getting the better of me). The taste had notes of vanilla and the countryside, like bark. At £74 for this 50% ABV whisky, we thought it was a little expensive to rush to buy.

Sonoma County.
After a half-time break, it was on to the fourth dram and back across the Atlantic for a Sonoma County Cherrywood Rye. The nose was the immediate talking point here. Without putting too fine a point on it, it smelt like carpet. New carpet to be precise. So much so, it was reminiscent of walking into a branch of Allied circa 1987.

It tasted "all right" we thought, certainly better than it smells. But to be honest, no matter how hard we tried, it was tough to get over that powerful smell. Some thought it was awful, others lovely, but then you can't expect any whisky club to agree on anything, let along everything. It's £63 and comes in at 47.8%. Must rye harder? Possibly.

This is not whisky.
The next whisky was a particular oddity, in that it can't technically be called whisky at all, at least not in the EU. The drink is Alberta Premium Dark Horse from Calgary in Canada. And 1% of it is made up of sherry which the folks at the distillery literally just pour in. So the sherry is not from the cask, but is 'teaspooned' instead. Because it isn't 100% whisky, that means we simply can't call it that, and also means it's unlikely to be imported here anytime soon.

We had a bottle though, and very cheap it was too - 29 Canadian dollars (£18). It had one or two strong supporters, but that was about it. Someone suggested it was reminiscent of wet cardboard, which after the full on carpet explosion of the previous dram, suggested his tastebuds weren't having a great run of things. It's 45% and, as is more common with Canadian whiskies, comes in a 75cl bottle rather than the typical 70.

Dad's Hat.
The night ended with another oddity. In this case, the world's only whiskey to be finished in vermouth barrels. The brand is Dad's Hat from Pennsylvania, a state once famous for whiskey but which has somewhat lost that reputation over the years.

This was herby on the nose and that wine influence seemed to come through more on the palate, along with a spiciness that certainly helped to make it very pleasant. It's 47% and is £55. Certainly worth seeking out, not least because of its uniqueness.

And that brought us almost to the close of another successful tasting. The only thing that remained was the dram of the night voting, and for the first time any of us could remember, it was the opening whisk(e)y of the evening which took the honours. There were no fewer than 13 votes for Kobal from the Windy City of Chicago.

Thanks to Tim for sourcing such an interesting range of drams for us all to try, to members old and new for another well-attended night, and to all at the Britons Protection for hosting us once again.

Drinking whiskey and rye.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.