Today we have yet another MGP/LDI sourced rye whisky. The main distinction here is that it’s bottled at a respectable 45% ABV instead of the minimum 40%, has an age statement, and is cheap as dirt. Is that a formula that makes a winning whiskey?
The website for Ezra Brooks is littered with marketing gush that proclaims how “honest” and “straight-shooting” the products are, which is a laugh because there is no Ezra Brooks distillery – the brand’s bourbons are distilled by parent company Luxco’s Lux Row distillery, which also makes Rebel Yell, David Nicholson, and others. The ryes are sourced from Indiana, which means LDI/MGP. The Straight Rye has a mash bill of 51% rye (45% corn, 4% malted barley for enzymes) and an age statement of 24 months (2 years), which is required by law because it’s under 4 years.
Still, MGP makes some tasty whiskies and the Rebel Yell thing isn’t necessarily a knock against it because, well, Luxco didn’t actually make it. (Ouch.) Let’s see how it performs in the glass:
Nose: Spicy, with a deep green eucalyptus or menthol note that is common with young rye. It smells so much like Vapo-Rub that I’m beginning to feel like I might have a cold. The green notes extend to grass and even asparagus. The rye spices are hard to discern between all the ferns and leaves, but might consist of mace, nutmeg, and green peppercorn.
Palate: Syrupy body. Tongue burn is mild or moderate. Sweeter than I expected, although the menthol and eucalyptus notes continue to the palate, so now it tastes exactly like a menthol cough drop, the kind with sweet cough syrup in the center.
Finish: Medium-long. I’ll let you take a guess. Ding ding! Menthol. Antiseptic, grassy, and I swear it’s actually clearing out my sinuses. Fades eventually, although you still feel like you just chewed a eucalyptus cud.
With Water: A few drops of water release… oh dear God, more menthol. Make it stop.
Overall: Seriously, they could probably market this stuff as barrel-aged crème de menthe and not be far off the mark. I don’t expect a lot for $16, and those menthol notes can actually be useful when mixing a cocktail where you want to balance other sweet ingredients. Still, drinking neat it’s hard to get over how medicinal this tastes. I feel like I’ve either been chewing on leaves like a koala, or in bed with a sinus infection and a bag of cough drops.
One easy way to get through a bottle of something like this is to mix a lot of whiskey sours. For some reason, that menthol note really works well with lemon and sugar, and produces a complex (instead of just grassy) cocktail. In fact, if you’re in the shop looking for a mixer to make citrus + whisky cocktails for bottom dollar, this will work just fine.
I have to give it a score, though, and even though this is priced squarely where it belongs at $16, it isn’t what I’d call competitive in the space.