So I tried this rye last week despite a big heavy sigh and an audible “oh good, another bottle of sourced American whiskey”. My wife asked me why I was talking to myself. Very embarrassing.
Anyway, Doc Swinson’s is a brand owned by Distiller’s Way LLC, an independent bottler aka NDP (non-distiller producer) specializing in selecting, blending, and finishing sourced American whiskey. They kind of burst onto the scene in the last two years, suddenly winning a number of awards. They’re probably best known for their “Alter Ego” series of finished bourbons, but I first truly considered them when I noticed this single barrel of rye at my local Costco. Turns out I’m a bit of a sucker for convenience.
I will give them this out of the gate: This bottle label has some INFO on it. I cannot remember the last time I saw an actual mash bill on a bottle label, let alone entry and pull dates! Rather than try to walk through the gory details, I’m just going to list it here. The chances of you finding the exact same single barrel are slim anyway, but after trying this I now have a lot more confidence in the brand to deliver, so I wouldn’t scoff at a different barrel number. Here goes:
- Straight Rye Whiskey
- Barrel Entry 08/17/2016 – Pull 09/10/2021, so it’s 5 years old
- Cask Strength (58.55% ABV)
- Barrel No. 2170380, Bottle 102
- Mash Bill 95% rye 5% malted barley
- Distilled in Indiana (so LDI), bottled in Washington
- Non-chill filtered
The label also says “Hand selected for Costco Wholesale.” All this for $38 at Costco. I don’t know a lot about the inner logistics of the whiskey industry, so I have no idea how they are able to produce a Costco-sized order of single barrels. Either it’s only distributed to a limited number of stores or they’re using quite a few different single barrels. In other words, your mileage may vary.
Nose: Strong nose tickle. Major notes of cherry pie filling, chewy caramel, resiny furniture polish (in a good way?), maple sap, and toasted cloves (but no cinnamon!).
Palate: Moderate body. Heavy tongue burn (ouch) finally clears to reveal oozy black cherries, black peppercorns, dense oak, cola, and a whisper of dark chocolate.
Finish: Long. Mouth-drying tannins are accompanied by an echo of the palate notes: Cherry, cola, chocolate. Evolves a hint of grape must and a little anise. Fades with a ghost of green apple skins.
With Water: Several drops of water seem to dial down the aromas a bit, but they also tame the tongue burn and add more cherry. Definitely try to handle this without water first, and then just use water to proof it down if you need.
Overall: Excellent. Cask-strength rye is not something readily available on the shelves these days, and certainly not at this level of quality for only $38. What?! If Buffalo Trace released this exact bottle it would sell out instantly and only be available on secondary markets for $1000. But it’s LDI and it’s at Costco so nobody cares. Me? I’m driving back to Costco to buy another bottle or three, while they last. Although there’s no telling what future barrels will be like, this particular one bodes very well for the company’s ability to source and bottle great whiskey for a great price. That’s instant brand loyalty for me.