First, an apology to my readers who want me to do more scotch reviews. Yes, this is yet another rye. My excuse is that my entire household has been dreadfully sick this week (myself included), and I already had this review written up. A scotch next week. Promise!
Cooper Spirits company, owner of the brand, has taken an interesting approach to the whole “ew sourced whiskey” controversy in the United States. They sourced straight rye whiskies aged between 4 and 15 years from five different North American distilleries, located in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana (MGP for sure), and Alberta Canada. Then, they did what the Scots have been doing successfully for ages, and vatted them together. Think a “blended malt” like many Compass Box releases or Monkey Shoulder (review upcoming), but with straight rye instead of malt whisky. This, like the work of Compass Box’s John Glaser and High West‘s David Perkins, gives the product an air of individuality and validity. They didn’t just pick a batch of barrels and slap their brand name on it; they assembled an assemblage.
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. At $35+ a bottle, we can’t really compare this head-to-head with a cocktail workhorse like Rittenhouse 100 (~$25), but we can have a little taste, at least…
Nose: A burst of florals and fruits: red apple, freshly-ground cinnamon and clove, violets, and faint peppermint. Complex, and yet light, airy, vibrant, and fresh. This is the kind of whiskey that pulls your nose in deeper. Excellent.
Palate: Thin body. Spicy, with cinnamon red hots, and a spike of alcohol burn. This resolves into gingerbread, pickled ginger (gari), cherry cordials (minus the chocolate), and a slight oaky sweetness (although the overall impression is quite dry).
Finish: On the short side. Red apple skin tannins, ground ginger and cardamom (anise-like). Fades with assorted (and muddled) dusty spice cabinet jars.
With Water: Water actually seems to mute the aromatic variety of this rye, instead making it hotter (more nose tickle). The palate gains a caraway (rye bread) note, and is a little less muddled. The finish is also more vibrant, and has a bit of tartness to it. I would skip the water when drinking this neat to preserve the aroma, but this tells me that melting ice in a cocktail will only improve the melding of this rye with other ingredients.
Overall: While the palate and finish are a little muddy, the aroma is fascinating and flawless and keeps drawing me back for more. Luckily, this makes an expressive, fragrant cocktail and is the first time Rittenhouse 100 has been challenged for the “special occasion Manhattan ingredient” spot in my cabinet. I don’t like this quite enough to want to drink it neat on a regular basis, but it surpasses Rittenhouse in everything but price.