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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rittenhouse Rye Single Barrels

Yes, I've been absent. Some of it was work -- quite a bit, actually -- some of it was WhiskyFest San Francisco, and some of it was baseball. In any case...I'm back. And I'm leaving again; tomorrow I'm flying to Kentucky to help celebrate Parker Beam's 50 years with Heaven Hill, and to get the first taste of this year's Evan Williams Single Barrel.

It's appropriate, therefore, to get back in the blogging swing with three years of Rittenhouse Rye Single Barrel, the 21, 23, and 25 year old releases, all bottled at 100 proof. Heaven Hill says the 25 year old is the last of these, so I'm queueing all three up tonight, and having a taste.

The smell is filling the room, I'll tell you that: wood, spice, and a surprising fruitiness. I'm going to start with the 21 year old, which looks darker than the 23 year old, about the same as the 25. It's Bottle 67, from Barrel 1. The smell is heavy with sweet oaky spice and a trenchant note of mint. It's a bit hot, but as I chew it, the mint comes out, some cinnamon flicker, and broad wood. I'll come back to this one.

Next up is the 23 year old, Bottle 72 from Barrel 8. The smell's much less heavy, sweet and even a bit crisp. Much more lively whiskey, not nearly as thickly oaky, not nearly as hot, either. There's still quite a dance in this one: teaberry, mint, that flick of cinnamon, and some real sweetness. It goes round and round in the mouth, more coming out with every sip and breath. Don't get me wrong: this is still rye, and would never be mistaken for a friendly sip of Maker's Mark or Basil Hayden. But it's approachable, and graciously yields its treasure.

Finally, the 25 year old, an unnumbered sample bottle from Barrel 1. Almost a blend of the first two: oaky, but sweet in the nose (and I really need to trim my moustache...) with a curl of vanilla to it. Easily the most drinkable of the three, surprisingly, but I still like the 23 better; this one is less layered, more shouty. I'm adding a little water, and the sweetness comes out, and that vanilla. There's not just oak spice in this one, there's oak vanilla and a touch of caramel. Still leaning towards the 23 year old; pretty heavily, actually. Yeah, going back to the 21 finds it still hot, my least favorite of the three.

These are quite intense ryes, well-aged, and full of wood...but not ruined by it. They represent what aging American whiskey -- in the hot summers and new barrels that entails -- can bring about.

Well, that will do me for tonight. I'm off to bed, and tomorrow, I'm off to Kentucky. Cheers!


jp said...

is that 25 availible to the general public via the PLCB?

Lew Bryson said...

No, it's not actually out yet, or is just out. But you know...they do list the 21 YO. Go figger.

Anonymous said...

So your favorite is the 23yr? That sounds about right for me. You know it is pretty hard these days to find Rittenhouse straight rye. There is plenty of the 100 proof bonded stuff around which I like just fine, but you do not see the straight variant. One of my friends claims that the straight rye is exactly the same as Pikesville supreme also bottled by Heaven Hill but I always thought Rittenhouse was a Monongahela rye while Pikesville was a Maryland rye. Is there still a difference?. Could you weigh in on this and set the record straight?