European Rye – Kyrö Malt Rye + Wood Smoke

It is funny how sometimes tasting experiences cluster together. I just so happened to meet the amusing gents behind Kyrö Rye in London at the 2022 Whisky Show. Then spotted a few months later, a sextet of European Rye whiskies from As my German-tasting companions hadn’t yet experienced what this Finland distillery has to offer, it seemed a perfect way to revisit at home and see what they thought too!

Kyrö Malt Rye Whisky 47.2%

  • Nose – Dry banana and tropical fruits, sweet grains, sugar beet mash, balsa, a bit herbal and fresh
  • Palate – Banana and coffee beans… veering into sweet Sambuca! A bit like a herbal liqueur then rye bread in a glass! Smooth
  • Finish – A nice coffee finish, that became sweeter as it lingered… shifting into a sweet pine forest

Overall we found the aromas inviting and the palate satisfying.

We then moved on to their lightly peated expression

Kyrö Wood Smoke Rye 47.2%

  • Nose – A very light wood smoke, like a hint of smoke or ash in a cold fireplace, warmed into sandalwood then a delicious curl of maple smoked bacon… we then found baked ham and pineapple which then shifted into a baked caramelized banana, accompanying all of this was a rich rye bread!
  • Palate – It started off a bit peculiar, but as we adjusted, we began to enjoy it more and more. There is wood, sweet BBQ sauce, smoked ham, and a slightly singed quality that is also bittersweet, then settles into a warm sauna
  • Finish – Light spice

This was the overall favourite from all 6 ryes sampled. It had the most complex and shifting aromas, the peat on the palate was both present and subtle at the same time. It makes you think of frolicking in a field of rye to then relax in a wood sauna.

What else did we try in our “Roggen (aka Rye) Revolution” tasting set?

And if you are curious about more whiskies from Finland, I’ve had a chance to try a few!

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European Rye – Stauning Rye 48% + El Clásico 45.7% (aka Manhattan in a cask!)

I was first introduced to  Denmark’s Stauning whiskies in 2016, thanks to

Thomas shared two Staunings – a Young Rye and a Peated 2nd Edition. Whilst interesting, they weren’t completely to my palate preferences… More recently, as part of an evening devoted to alternate finishes, we tried the Stauning Rye (2021) Mezcal Finish 46.3% which was definitely different!

So I was curious to see how the distillery has evolved and what their standard “Rye” without embellishments is like and their new “El Clasico” expression.

We decided something labeled “El Clasico” should be our starting point…

Stauning El Clásico 45,7%

  • Nose – Interesting! Old wooden furniture, plums, cedar wood closet, resinous, wood chips, apples, and grapes… very nice! It envelopes you in a warm embrace
  • Palate – Hmmm… a total contrast from the aroma… cold granite, very young, bitter with a bit of raisin, resins, and spice… joined by herbs and botanicals, quite curious for a Rye
  • Finish – Slightly bitter
  • Water – One taster added, and recommended against

We struggled with this one. How could it be so inviting, with such potential on the nose to be so odd on the palate? In short, we wouldn’t consider this “classic” style at all.

What more do we know? It turns out that Stauning El Clásico is a rye with a vermouth twist! Whilst most folks would make their Manhattan by combining Whisky & Vermouth, the folks at Stauning decided to try finishing their Rye for 6 months in a sweet Spanish vermouth cask. Curious!

How do they describe the results?

The nose is filled with the scent of apples, oranges, ripe plum, warm spices, cinnamon and roasted caramel. The lips are met with a sweet and piercing kiss of dried fruits, citrus, and crushed pepper. The warm aftertaste has bittersweet notes of vermouth that stays inside the body for a long time.

Not a classic in my books, but this helps explain the contrast between aromas and palate.

We then moved on to their standard expression, to discover it was more to our preference.

Stauning Rye 48%

  • Nose – Starts off with sweet wood (aka licorice), quite herbal, some smoked paprika, light apple crumble with cinnamon, then a hint of rye bread
  • Palate – A touch of cocoa, something slightly roasted, then grape cola
  • Finish – Nothing specific stood out

The folks at Stauning describe this as:

A liquid interpretation of freshly baked Danish rye bread. A Nordic rye whisky with dark and roasted aromas and a long fruity aftertaste.

This is a different kind of rye whisky. The combination of malted rye and barley and pot still distillation makes this a smooth, fruity and full-bodied whisky.

It was at this point my tasting companions and I concluded that we probably aren’t the target group for Stauning. We are devoted single malt explorers, and whilst it’s interesting to venture into other territories, this particular pair reminded us why we are whisky, not rye enthusiasts.

Put more bluntly – if you are looking to convert someone from Single Malt to Rye, these aren’t your best “gateway” drams. However, if you are already a staunch Rye fan, you will find something a bit different and interesting in this pair!

What else did we try in our “Roggen (aka Rye) Revolution” tasting set?

If you are curious about other Danish whiskies, check out:

Of these, Fary Lochan is the one to watch! I’ve already tracked down an original bottle of their 6-year Moscatel Finish!

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European Rye – Stork Straight Rye + Full Proof

We began our European Rye tasting journey in Germany – given that’s where we are located! We decided to start with the familiar Stork Club Straight Rye and then move on to their Full Proof expression.

It was also fitting that I was tasting this pair with friends in Neumark in der Oberpfalz – considering they had earlier introduced me to Stork Single Malt 43%! And true to form, we rewarded ourselves with a tasting after a day trip to a medieval fair in an old castle (Burg Parsberg in this case)- because that’s how we roll in Deutschland!

Let’s start with a quick recap on Stork which comes from Spreedwood Distillery. It was started by three friends who spotted an opportunity to bring rye from the field to the glass:

  • Steffen Lohr, former bartender (including »Der Raum«, Melbourne) worked for years as a brand ambassador for Bacardi before he set up his own agency »Small Big Brands«
  • Sebastian Brack invented the successful Thomas Henry bitter lemonade brand and is a co-founder of Belsazar Vermouth.
  • Bastian Heuser – also a former bartender and one of the co-founders of the »Bar Convent Berlin«, the leading European trade fair for the bar and beverage industry.

They use German rye, largely from the prolific Brandenburg region, and love to experiment with different casks. You can read more about their process here.

Now let’s get down to “tasting’ business!

Stork Club Straight Rye 45%

  • Nose – Very minerally, like wet granite or stone, also quite “clean”, slowly opened to reveal a little sweet caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Wow! Very sweet, butterscotch, a hint of peppery spice, then shifted into espresso joined by creamy chocolate, warming into orange marmalade
  • Finish – More of that bitter espresso beans

As much as the aromas were “mineral”, the palate was soft and sweet! It has a lovely mouthfeel – almost buttery. The more we spent with this rye, the more chocolaty it became – at one point it was like the rye equivalent of sipping chocolate milk!

Overall this is an exceedingly drinkable dram. Very pleasant, quite enjoyable… and whilst there is nothing “exceptional”, it is just a friendly Rye that one can sip or combine in a cocktail.

This is exactly what happened to my bottle of Stork Rye – brought to India for a tasting that instead joined a Cast party after a great production. It made a marvelous base for an exceedingly delicious Old Fashioned with a nice orange zest and Peychaud’s bitters. Yum! No wonder the whole bottle was rapidly emptied! (and yes – that’s our cat Zoe joining the bottle pic!)

What more do we know? Stork’s Straight Rye is matured in First fill American oak & German Napoleon oak. At Eur 30 (in Germany), it is good rye to keep in your whisky cabinet for those moments when you want a change from a typical single malt – particularly if in the mood for a cocktail!

We then moved on to the “Full Proof” Rye expression, anticipating it to be a more “amped up” version of the Straight Rye.

Stork Club Full Proof Rye 55%

  • Nose – Surprisingly shy, what we could discern was quite sweet, buttery caramel or butterscotch, from far away something lightly roasted, a bit of rye hint, yet overall quite ‘muted’ – at least compared with the Straight Rye, after some time had a touch of dried fruits and vanilla, but still quite subtle
  • Palate – Is that Sherry? Sweet over-ripe plums, some dates, a maraschino cherry, sweet spices – particularly cloves, then some wine tannins, the skin of plums
  • Finish – A hint of peppery spice carries through
  • Water – Fruity, sweet, consistent with the palate

This was curious and decidedly different from the “straight rye.” Perhaps because we enjoyed the Straight Rye so much, we had high expectations to be blown away with this one! It was still interesting, yet quite different than we anticipated.

What I later read helped explain everything! The “Full Proof” expression is made in small batches and is matured in toasted American and German Napoleon oak casks as well as sherry and white-wine casks and is bottled at approximately cask strength.

Aha! Suddenly it all made sense!! That’s where the odd sherry notes or wine influences came – which are a bit different in a Rye than in a single malt! Hence when we found these elements, this didn’t quite “jibe” with what we had in mind for a Rye. An interesting experiment, however, I’m not a real fan of some wine cask finishes, and with Rye? It is definitely different!

If you are curious to try it, this is currently part of Stork’s core range and be purchased in Germany for Eur 48 for 500ml.

What next did we try in our “Roggen (aka Rye) Revolution” tasting set?

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European Rye Revolution – Kyrö, Stauning, Stork

The world of ryes has radically exploded in recent years. Far from the typical North American Rye, Europe has some serious contenders in this space. This makes perfect sense when you consider over 50% of the world’s rye comes from Europe – with Germany leading the way!

And whilst I’ve had a chance to try some interesting ryes lately at Whisky festivals, sitting down at home (or a friend’s home, in this case), for a proper tasting is always preferable to the quick sniff, swish & spit of a large Whisky fest!

What I love about this particular tasting set is how a “standard” expression was paired with a slightly different or limited edition expression from the same distillery. This way we could get a feel for the ‘house style’ along with variations on that theme.

So what did we explore?

Roggen (aka Rye) Revolution” with 3 sets of pairs:

Whilst 6 different ryes may seem like a lot to go through at one “go”, when these are minis of only 30 ml each shared between three people, it’s a perfect teasing taste! And when the price is a mere Eur 20 – it’s also a great deal!

All of the distilleries, we’d had previous experiences, which you can read about here:

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Germany’s Elch Torfduett 50.6%

One of the highlights at the 2022 Schwetzinger Whisky Festival was spending time with the folks from Elch Distillery. The setting was inviting, at the Schloss just outside of Heidelberg. I was captivated by Elch’s cheeky Moose mascot, its use of local elements, and its commitment to the spirit’s craft.

Along the way, sampling various whisky wares, I also developed a weakness for their absolutely fabulous range of liqueurs. Can I just say “Eier Elli” – BEST egg liqueur! They also make a mighty fine Gin – yum!

However, the focus is their whisky and experimentations with German peat. That summer, their peaty Torf vom Dorf was my “pick” of the festival!

As a proud Franconian distillery, not so far from Nuremberg, my friends and I had plans to make a weekend trip – check out the distillery, their gasthof, maybe even their nearby “glamping” set-up. We thought perhaps sometime in the summer 2023.

And then we heard the terrible news of their tragic fire in February – destroying the roof. A terrible setback and much effort lies ahead to rebuild. Naturally, our plans to make a summer jaunt were postponed.

Which was why it was so good to have a chance to check in with the fine folks at Elch at The Village 2023 whisky festival in Nurnberg. They shared their hopes to overcome the challenges and launched two new whiskies were featured:

  • Torfduett – a new entrant to their core range, matured in 90% ex-bourbon barrels and 10% acacia
  • Neustart – a special “reboot” edition at a deliberately higher price to help raise funds to support the rebuild of their brewery and distillery.

My friends sampled several and I just had sniffs of their glasses as it was (alas!) a non-tasting day for me due to dental issues! However, the good folks at Elch took pity, and sent me away from their booth with a wee sample of Torfduett that I decided this fine summery day to crack open!

Elch Torfduett 50.6%

  • Nose – Fresh timber and tires, bay leaf, orchard fruits, sweet spices of clove and cinnamon bark, a hint of toffee, and a whiff of vanilla pod
  • Palate – The peat is more subtle than anticipated, like warm embers rather than a raging forest fire, yet still firmly there, chased by light-baked fruits – mostly pear with green apples too.
  • Finish – Lovely and lingering with a hint of chilies
  • Water – Yes, please! Brings out a delightful cinnamon spice and everything nice

There is something quite “fresh” and green about this one. And a nice new addition to their range – well done!

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