Last night we had our second group tasting. We added a new member to our group and everyone from our first tasting returned for round two. For me, that counts as a success. We had a wide spread of finger food ranging from homemade snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, Weller infused chocolate ganache balls to the more savory caprese salad bites and whiskey cocktail wieners. The food was great, the company better and the lineup was just as fantastic.
This month’s theme was rye. I had been placed in charge at our first tasting of procuring bottles for our second meetup. I did a bit of research, found three reasonably priced bottles and one more expensive, highly rated bottle. They sat in my office for two weeks or so… just staring at me, begging to be opened, but I was able to resist. I had not tried any of these particular bottles and was just as excited to sample them as the others.
Rye has been seeing a resurgence over the past several years, and just this past week, Fred Minnick declared Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey the best budget value in the world of whiskey at this moment in time. At the beginning of our tasting, the questions of “What is rye and how does it differ from bourbon?” and “Is rye a whiskey?” came up and we discussed mash bills and regulations and went over the fact that all rye is whiskey, but not all whiskey is rye (or bourbon, or scotch, etc…). These are questions of newcomers that we have all had to learn. People typically think of Jack Daniels when they think of whiskey, but don’t necessarily make the connection that there are subcategories for whiskey that other varieties fall into.
I had arranged the bottles as shown in the image up top. The idea being that there are two rules that I try to follow when arranging our lineup:
- Arrange from lowest proof to highest proof
- Drink the “fancier” or more expensive one first
These rules resulted in a bit of a contradiction since Whistlepig 10 was our highest proof, but also the most expensive bottle. The thought process behind my decision was that you don’t want to burn your palate out right away with something too strong, but you don’t want to “save the best for last” since by that point, you might not be too interested in it or again, your palate might be burnt out. You don’t serve your best bottles after drinking several pours of Buffalo Trace do you?
This was the one that I was most excited to try. I had heard nothing but great things about it and was expecting to be very impressed, but it ended up being the least favorite among all of our tasters. Some were put off by the higher proof, others simply didn’t like the taste. It was fine, but for the price ($79.99 MSRP) I just don’t see the value. It has a unique name and bottle, but it ended up not being as good as I had hoped. I have a 13 year store pick that I hope will change my mind.
Michter’s ended up being one of the favorites of the night. It was the lowest proof , coming it at 84.8 and was very well received by all members. Everyone really enjoyed the nose and sat around nosing their Glencairns for a while before taking a sip. The palate was enjoyed by everyone, with its burst of citrus, vanilla and a hint of butterscotch. One taster commented that this one was probably the most bourbon-like of our lineup and I think he was correct.
Woodford Reserve Rye
Woodford Reserve Rye was well received, but some people did not particularly enjoy the nose on it. The complaints that it was too peppery for some was the major takeaway, but while they did not enjoy the nose, everyone found the taste to be quite pleasant with most agreeing that the taste was better than the Michter’s but the overall package just wasn’t as good.
High West Double Rye!
High West was the standout among the lineup. It had the most unique nose, palate and finish between the ones we sampled. Almost everyone agreed that it was either their favorite or second favorite of the night and everyone was surprised to find out that it was also the least expensive of the group coming in at only $34.99. The minty, eucalyptus nose with a sweet, herbaceous palate made it stand apart from the rest.
In the end, it was a tie between High West Double Rye! and Michter’s Rye for the favorite of the night. Woodford Reserve Rye came in third, with Whistlepig 10 coming in last. The decision of course came down to taste, but we also discussed the value of each bottle. Everyone agreed that they would be happy to purchase a bottle of High West or Michter’s to have at home, but would be less inclined to buy Whistlepig simply because it was twice the price of the other bottles, even if they had liked it more. The value just simply isn’t there.
As a bonus, I brought down the last of a bottle of Lagavulin 16 just to let people see how drastic of a difference there can be in the world of whiskey. Only one of our members enjoyed it besides myself. Maybe it will grow on them! We’ve scheduled our next meetup in March where we’ll be doing the a flight of Michter’s base product line. I look forward to seeing everyone again and hope that our group will continue to grow. Cheers!