Tonight’s tasting will be undertaken as the world ends around us. Which means there will be one possibly significant deviation from the previous protocol: I can’t get distilled water, so I’ll have to use filtered tap.
Jack Daniels Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey – I guess they need to keep up the branding with the middle part there, but really I can’t imagine that people are really choosing rye based on terroir. In fact, these tastings have lead led me to believe that rye might be the truly American spirit — what with excellent ones being produced in PA, KY, and IN. So, Jack, what’s your rye like? It’s not quite the same color as their standard product, and the nose is definitely sweeter. The taste is sweeter too. And.. better. I hate to keep using the word “caramel” when describing the taste, but it’s sweet with the flavor of browned carbohydrates — what else am I supposed to say? The other thing that this has (that I like ymmv) that is lacking in Jacks back and green the the flavor changed and develops over time. It starts off sugary, then thins out a bit to spicy, and finishes with a broader more cocoa-like affect. Vastly superior to Brother Beam’s product, I’m sorry to have to say. Hitting it with water makes it more flavorful in general, but also introduces an ashy taste at the end. Some people like that, I kind of have to be in the mood for it. I did accidentally over dilute it, I try to take it to 80 proof but this was closer to 65. Maybe I’ll return to it and do another attempt afterward.
Templeton Rye – I’m rooting for this one for two reasons. The first being that some Glib liked it enough to mention it and the second reason is that it’s made in freaing Iowa, which would add to my whole “great rye can be made anywhere in America (or at least anywhere east of the Rockies)” theory I’ve got going on. I found out where it was made when I read the label to see why it shared one with Moretti. This one is a much lighter amber than most of what’s been poured so far. It looks more like a Scotch than a Bourbon. It’s also not legging up nearly as much. Nose is faint. More fruity than anything else. Esteric. Taste is incredibly subtle. What proof is this? Eighty? Huh. Lemme drink again. Ok, wow, I was not expecting this. This is underpriced. Not because it’s particularly better than others at 125% of it’s price, but that it’s a different kind of drinking experience. This is ridiculously smooth, and it’s relying much less on the barrel for its flavor. This would be an easy drink to knock back without thinking and decide that it was “boring.” It’s not, but you do need to pay attention to it to notice what you’ve got. This one is definitely going to be in the collection — I don’t know how often I’ll reach for it in preference to others, but this is a drink sufficiently different that when I’m craving it, I won’t be able to substitute.
Sagamore Spirit – Why is the capsule barry-paley? Fucking Baltimore? Ok, ok, it’s probably NOT distilled by characters from The Wire. Someone here recommended to it, and it will be further data blah blah. Color is typical, nose is a bit raw ethanol and vegetals. In the mouth, it’s exceptionally light bodied, with the flavors distinct and clean. A couple drops of water make it slightly more aggressive but it’s easily recognizable from its undiluted (and frankly only 83 proof form). Eating a sharp cheddar makes it vanish. A second dram to consider things. Ok, this suffers from being behind the Templeton, since they fill similar niches. Final verdict is that this is a good rye, and a good example of the type. However, I don’t think that it brings anything to the table that any of the first ten I’ve tasted did.
Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye – Upon pouring, you can tell that some funny business is going on. That color is just… not a whiskey color. Likewise the nose. It’s actually a pretty interesting scent — it’s bifurcated, different parts of my nose are smelling different things. And boy, is it yummy. It’s like really tasty. I think I’m going to go break off a piece of chocolate and have with this. Oooh yeah, that’s good. I am keeping a bottle of this on hand and next time I bring a date home for dinner, I’ll pour her a glass of this with dessert and I will be getting lucky. I really like this. Unfortunately, I’m disqualifying it from the rankings because it’s not a rye, it’s a rye whiskey-and-port bottled cocktail. It’s a cheating cheater who cheats. Just like I love Ommegang’s “Three Philosophers,” but honesty makes me admit it’s a beer that’s been flavored with kriek, this is a rye blend flavored with port. I am a big port supporter.
Honorable mention, Delicious but disqualified – Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye
Honorable mention, Mass market producer – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
Winner, round three – Templeton Rye