Thursday, January 28, 2021

Rye Hard 2: Rye Harder

The full line-up
January's lockdown tasting had club member Tim bring us the long-awaited sequel to his Rye Hard tasting of ryes with, what else, but Rye Hard 2: Rye Harder.

And we went straight in with dram number one. This was a bit woody, almost like a furniture sort of smell contributing to a lovely nose. But the views got a bit more mixed once we actually tasted it. There was sweetness, a bit of spice too, but if anything we were a little disappointed with the palate, which went dry and then bitter quite suddenly. It got sharper with water but, as Tim revealed, there wasn't actually enough rye it in it to be a rye, so it was in fact a bourbon.

Woodford Reserve

There was also a bit of dark chocolate around, which was explained by the fact it did have chocolate malted rye in it. It was the Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon expression from Woodford Reserve. It's 45.2% and costs £80. Certainly distinctive and we were glad to have tried it, but not something anyone rushed out to buy at that price.

Next was a bit of a surprise as we had an English rye, prompting the inevitable chorus of "I had no idea English rye was even a thing". Well, it is, and this one has been produced by Suffolk brewery Adnams. This had boozy mixed fruit on the nose, almost like a Speyside. Someone even said it reminded them of Drambuie. It was certainly a bit orangey on the palate too, citrussy, spicy but almost smooth. "Would be great in an Old Fashioned" someone suggested.

Adnams Rye Malt

The aftertaste was very citrussy too, and it had a long, slightly dry finish. There was a bit of a consensus around the word 'unusual' which is no bad thing. The bottle simply called Rye Malt, is 47% and is not bad value at all at £45.

The third dram of the night didn't have quite as much on the nose as the previous two, although some members thought that changed a little bit with a splash of water. It was unmistakably a rye but was perhaps a bit undistinguished compared with the ones we'd already tried. It smelt sweet but the palate was very short and didn't taste of all that much, beyond a bit of spiciness that didn't really stick around. A pleasant enough, easy drinker though.

Templeton Rye

This was the Templeton Rye Small Batch, from Indiana. It was 40% and cost £39 for a 75cl bottle, although this particular expression is no longer available.

Dram number four got an immediate response: "Do you not think it smells of straw?" There was definitely a bit of the giraffe house going on, although at the same, I thought a bit of steamed pudding as well. Deeper and richer than some of the others we'd had during the tasting, it was rich, lovely and sweet on the palate, with a bit of spiciness coming through as well. Apple pie was another tasting note that plenty of people agreed with.

New Riff Straight Rye

We were drinking New Riff Straight Rye, from Kentucky, made with 95% rye and clocking in at 50% ABV. It's £60 and was a clear favourite so far for most of the drinkers.

The last of our five drams also had the highest rye content, at 100%. Apples were again in evidence, along with pear drops (Editor's note: after this discussion of pear drops I went to the trouble of buying a bag for the first time in years - it turns out they taste nothing like whisky. What a con). There was caramel on the finish too although it wasn't as sweet as some of the others. Oily and toffee notes got a few shouts as well. It punched up on the flavours, and it might have been a bit sharp for some club members.

Reservoir Rye

It was the Reservoir Rye Virginia Rye Whiskey, at 50% and £99. A bit pricey, despite being obviously a quality drink.

Which brought us to the dram of the night voting. Only the third one didn't attract any support, but it was the New Riff which took the honours with 14 votes, to 10 for the Reservoir Rye and seven for the Adnams.

Thanks to all club members and those on the waiting list who joined us via Zoom for another successful lockdown tasting, and in particular to Tim for selecting the whiskies and guiding us through it. We'll have to do a part three one day!

Another Zoom tasting!

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