There’s always this awful moment, for a blogger, when a package arrives in the mail from an upstart craft distillery. Obviously, I need to maintain my illusory blogger credibility by thoroughly panning slop, even if it’s free slop. When that happens, though, I have to email the poor PR rep or (worse) distillery employee and provide a link to my review of their hard work. This sort of thing can be very awkward. You can imagine my relief, then, when I open a free bottle and discover something tasty and easy-to-like inside. The Interwebs may decide that I’m full of it, but at least I can sleep at night.
Filibuster is a Virginia-based distillery that (ironically) started out as a blending house with no plans to distill. Then, I can only imagine the inexorable draw as the craft whiskey industry sang its siren song (yes, these are the kinds of things I sit in front of my computer and imagine) and the company purchased a defunct apple processing plant in the Shenandoah valley, in Virginia, and began installing stills. As is the case with just about every other distillery or “distillery” opened this decade, the liquid is not quite ready to barrel yet. Best guess, they started distilling in 2017 so we can expect real Filibuster juice around about 2021. Until then, Filibuster bottles (including this bourbon and a wine-finished blend of bourbon and rye called Boondoggler) contain sourced whiskey, and have since they started producing in 2013.
For what it’s worth, the distillery has a continuous still and is aging in 53-gallon kiln-dried new American Oak at their facility in Virginia. They are sourcing local grains (indeed, from farms in the same Zip code) and even publish the farms where the grains are grown. None of that matters yet, because what we have here is no-name rye from somewhere (MGP? Who knows, there’s no hint on the bottle). The twist, though, is that this two year-old rye (a 90% rye / 10% malted barley mash bill) is finished for an additional two years in “white wine seasoned” French Oak barrels. The initial two years gives it the right to be called “Straight Rye Whiskey” and the second two years means it’s four years of age for our purposes.
Oh yeah, it’s called Filibuster because it’s made just outside of Washington D.C. Yuk Yuk.
My bottle is from Batch #8 and is bottled at 45% ABV. Thanks to Annie for the generous samples!
Nose: Soft, round spicy rye with a big heaping of grape jam. Bright, fruity, and with scattered elements of apple cider, berry preserves, and an undercurrent of cracked black pepper, cloves, and caraway. This has moderate depth, but very well-balanced fruits and spice. A rest in the glass brings additional sweetness, like sugar glaze on a cinnamon roll.
Palate: Medium bodied. Rye spices jump to the fore, with the aforementioned clove plus powdered cinnamon, dried apples, and gingerbread. A mild tongue burn barely interrupts the almost Christmas-y flavors.
Finish: Medium length. A reprise of the same flavors, plus a little bit of bitterness and a dusting of charcoal which adds a little smokiness. Finishes without evolving much.
With Water: A few drops of water open up a bit more alcohol (“nose tickle”) and a tart high note, like kiwi or green grapes. The water also amps the tongue burn and thins the body. The water is not really required here.
Overall: Pleasant, but with enough spice to give it an edge. The finish in wine barrels has laden the aroma with layer upon layer of fresh fruits which are balanced nicely by rye spice notes. The whole gets a little muddier on the palate, losing some of the fruit, but the experience remains positive through the end. Probably some extra years (pre-wine cask) would tighten up that midpalate, but $40 is already at the upper end of what the market will bear for young sourced rye, even as well-finished as this, and the West Coast sees distribution of this at the not-ideal price of $55.
Recommended. Although it might be a “Must Try” if you’re in the market for a tasty rye and you like a little fruit with your rye spices.