Hochstadter’s Rye

Cooper Spirits company sourced straight rye whiskies aged between 4 and 15 years from five different North American distilleries, located in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Alberta Canada. Then, they did what the Scots have been doing successfully for ages, and vatted them together. … The vats are maintained at the company’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania headquarters until the components marry and then bottled at a hearty 100 proof (50% ABV) without chill-filtration.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

The Northern Harvest Rye bottling itself is a blended Canadian whisky comprising a high percentage (90%) of rye. (Most Canadian whisky contains rye, to some extent.) The packaging claims the rye used is from fields that over-winter under cover of snow which, we’re expected to believe, leads to smoother whisky. The result is bottled at 45% ABV. That’s pretty much all Crown has revealed. So, am I about to taste the world’s best whiskey?

Trader Joe’s Highlands Single Malt 12 year (2003 – 2015)

At any rate, this is an ex-bourbon single malt from the Deanston distillery. (The bottle says “Matured in Oak Casks”. Duh.) It was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2015 at 40% ABV after 12 years of aging. Deanston’s official releases are bottled without chill-filtration, but there’s no telling what Alexander Murray chose to do when bottling this. I found it at Trader Joe’s in California for $30.

Trader Joe’s Speyside Single Malt 13 year (2002 – 2015)

Bland, and somewhat bitter. Not a successful malt. This should probably not have been saved from the mountain of “blending fodder” barrels for which it was no doubt originally destined. There are no redeeming florals, fruits, or even cloying sweets. Instead, it mostly just tastes like insipid wood and alcohol. If you’re standing in a Trader Joe’s right now, trying to make a decision, I’ll make it for you: Get the 12 year-old Highland (psst! It’s from Deanston) instead.

FEW Rye

FEW’s rye is made on a copper still from a mashbill of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley all from mid-western US growers, and is aged around three years. Note that FEW’s gin is made on a second still, to avoid “cross-contamination” of the gin botanicals into the whiskies.

Book Review: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-it-All

If you’re intimidated by the world of whisky appreciation and want a whimsical crash-course, or if you’re trying to think of a fun gift (Last-minute Christmas gift? Yes!) for a whisky lover who doesn’t take it all too seriously, this is an excellent purchase. If you think this will teach you about whisky via scent, you may be disappointed.