Produced by Jim Beam at the Clermont distillery in Kentucky, the brand dates back to the early 1800s and was originally made in the Monongahela (Pennsylvania) style. Nowadays Old Overholt is 51% rye, just barely meeting the legal definition, with the remainder made up with corn and probably a little malted barley for enzymes. It’s aged for three years (fours years in the recent past) and bottled at 40% ABV.
The fact that Cut Spike is only two years of age is astounding – in a blind test I would have said 12 at least, but more likely 18. This can be attributed, in part, to the use of charred new oak barrels (a la bourbon), which is a rare to nonexistent practice with whisky made from malted barley.
To me, this tastes like the Van Winkle bourbon, but with the heavier (and sweeter) syrupy notes replaced with orange peel, cherry bitters, and a more apparent conversation with oak. Thankfully, the thirteen years of aging stops short of being over-oaked.
Now, I have a particular fondness for young rye that actually tastes like rye. I want big eucalyptus, wintergreen, or pine, and I want spicy ‘sharp’ notes of cinnamon, cardamom, and anise. Occasionally, some caraway (think rye bread) is nice too.
I think it’s an excellent whisky, and really shows what Angel’s Envy is capable of. I can’t love the price point, however, no matter how carefully hand-picked the casks are.
Baker’s is a bit of an oddball. One expects from bourbon a big, sweet ball of corn syrup, alcohol, and oak. Here the sweetness is merely background, letting nuances (including bitter and tannic ones) from the wood and, perhaps, the rye component play out.
A beast of a whiskey. Booker’s shows its best flavors and aromas while undiluted (except on the palate, where you can only taste fire), and provides a sense of accomplishment that few whiskies can offer when conquered neat. That said, one will be much more comfortable with a glass of Booker’s if a generous splash of water (or two) is used to tame it.
I was curious about Maker’s because it’s a wheater. In a world of high-rye bourbons, a mashbill with wheat instead of rye is somewhat rare. The Pappys, the Wellers, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, and Maker’s. That’s a pretty short list considering the hundreds of bourbon brands on the market. Maker’s is also distinct for making its own bourbon, not slapping a label on bourbon produced at MGP or KBD.
While it’s an unobjectionable sip, I think the value of young LDI/MGP rye like this is to serve as the brown spirits in classic American cocktails. There are much more complex ryes for sipping.
This certainly has the hallmarks of Bryan Davis’s work – funky and offbeat, its flavor pairings are just as unlikely (and just as successful) as salt with caramel and bacon with maple syrup.