Speed Tasting – Pikesville 110 Proof Straight Rye 55%

My “Speed Tasting” continued with the clock ticking far too quickly! Two drams down… on to the 3rd with approximately 2-3 minutes to quickly rate according to nose, taste, finish, character & complexity.

What were my hasty impressions?

Pikesville 6 year 110 Proof Straight Rye 55%

  • Nose – Took a few moments to calibrate from the earlier whisky as initial impression was varnish! Then over-ripe fruit. VANILLA – with a reason for ‘shouting’ as this was such a dominant note. Then eased into flowers. After more airing (during the revisit post speed tasting), the vanilla had faded and the nose shifted into something deeper
  • Palate – Smooth, finally we found real body, other elements too, fruity, a bit nutty, clearly rye with a spicy chaser
  • Finish – Quite a decent length, savoury and sweet spice
  • Character & Complexity – The first to have some complexity, interesting

Quite a contrast from the earlier whisky, which was all sweetness in the end.

Most were confident this wasn’t Scottish and identified it as a rye. For a few, this was the 2nd highest rated dram of the bunch.

But was it outstanding? 2nd best in the world? Hmm…

And that was exactly the point of our “Speed Tasting” organizer, who mixed into our five mystery malts, Jim Murray’s top 3 whiskies for 2016.

Image Pikesvillerye.com

And what did Jim Murray have to say in his 2016 Whisky Bible about this dram?

  • Nose 24.5/25 – Textbook. The fruitiness of the rye shimmers on the nose; a light spice tingles in Demerara rum fashion. Carry on nosing and you will, if patient and able enough, find unusual depths to which few whiskies reach. The tantalizing chocolate-liquorice at about three quarters depths is one of the aromas of the year;
  • Taste 24.5/25 – After that nose, the delivery just had to be majestic. And it is. The rye grain fair rattles against the teeth, the sugars – crystalline, dark and tinged with both molasses and muscovado – help bring its salivating qualities to a maximum. Then those spices… those wonderful, bustling, fizzing spices…
  • Finish 24/25 – A lovely mix between ulmo and Zambian forest honey keeps the sweetness lingering to the end. The rye, of course, continues to sparkle and spice its way to the last embers of the fade… which is a long way away… 
  • Balance & Complexity 24.5/25 – The most stunning of ryes and the best from Heaven Hill for some time.

And the official Pikesville tasting notes?

  • Colour – Pale copper
  • Nose – Dusty cocoa notes with oaky smoke underneath
  • Palate – Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves
  • Finish – Soft vanilla and baking spices

While Heaven Hill’s Pikesville was originally from Maryland, it is now produced in  Kentucky, aged for at least 6 years.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Speed Tasting – Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%

During monsoon, we had a remarkable experience “Speed Tasting” where we rated five different drams in the space of 15 minutes with approximately 2-3 minutes per dram.

We had no idea what we were sampling… This was my 2nd dram and merely known as whisky “B”…

Our first part was tasting in silence and rating

What were my hasty impressions?

  • Nose – Sweet, fruity, yoghurt, young and fresh, light spice, quite piquant, a bit of grass and a quality almost like agave, then shifted to sweet – like candy floss or bazooka gum or juicy fruit or banana candies or… (you get the picture!) –  returning later it was pure honey sweet
  • Palate – Much spicier than the nose indicated, almost harsh on 1st sip, peppery, then settled down and became sweeter and smooth
  • Finish – Holds for a bit but quite linear
  • Character & Complexity – Bright, young, and dropped its spice to become insanely sweet

Our 2nd part was brief discussion with a wee bit of guessing…

Impressions – most thought this may be rye. We also thought it wasn’t your ordinary rye and may be matured in something quite different – perhaps cognac cask.

None of us gave this top rating however it certainly wasn’t last.

And the reveal?

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%

I’ll admit that I’m not so familiar with rye whiskies… and I certainly didn’t pinpoint this as Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, even after we were given a short-list of options. Admittedly, I’d had it only in passing with no proper tasting so far. What I remembered most was an almost ‘ginger ale’ quality which I didn’t connect with this experience.

And what did Jim Murray have to say in his 2016 Whisky Bible when awarding this dram?

  • Nose 25/25 – The rye is not just profound and three dimensional, but has that extraordinary trick of allowing new elements to to take their place: rarely does ulema honey and manuka honey link arms when rye is around, but they do here, yet never for a second diminish the sharpness and presence of the grain;
  • Taste 24/25 – Salivating and sensual on delivery, hardly for a second are we not reminded that rye is at work here. And it makes itself heard loudly through the stiff backbone from which all the softer, sugary notes emanate. Crunchy and at times bitter, though in a pleasant controlled way from the grain, rather than from a questionable cask.
  • Finish 23.5/25 – Quietens rapidly, though only for a moment or two before the spices begin to pulse again and vanillas take up their comfortable positions;
  • Balance & Complexity 24.5/25 – This is the kind of whisky you dream of dropping into your tasting room. Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.

And the official Crown Royal tasting notes?

  • Nose – Baking spices, cereal, light wood spices
  • Palate – Gentle oak note, rich butterscotch, spiced vanilla, develops into soft peppery notes
  • Finish – Smooth and creamy

A few folks may know that Crown Royal is from my home province of Manitoba. Or that in 2016, I had the pleasure of touring their plant in the very picturesque Gimli with my parents.

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Nordic Explorers #11 – Denmark’s Stauning Young Rye 2010/2011

Next up in our Nordic Explorer‘s session was a whisky from Denmark’s Stauning distillery.

Stauning was founded in 2005 by nine whisky enthusiasts in western Denmark with a dram to make a Danish dram that uses locally sourced grain, locally malted and, where relevant, using Danish peat.  Encouraged by a meeting with Jim Murray and his positive reviews of their early results, the team bought a farm near Staining and built new premises in 2009.

Stauning Young Rye (2010/2011 – Oct 2012) Batch 5 49.3% 

  • Nose – Inoffensive yet still veering more in the harsh nose cleanser territory, clearly rye, raw yet more muted than the rawness of the Floki, some spice sharpness, a dusty dry sawdust dimension, then became sweeter with overripe melon and honey
  • Palate – Grain rye, smooth and doesn’t burn with a hint of apricot
  • Finish – Normally a finish that stays is a good thing… in this case not so much

Perhaps it is just that my Nordic whisky lady companion and I are simply not partial to rye whiskies or perhaps it was just that after the fabulous Teerenpeli Kaski, the Stauning Young Rye didn’t even come close to measuring up.

It reminded both of us of the slightly peculiar grain experiments we recently tried from AD Laws – Triticum and Hordeum. Neither were to our taste. Perhaps a rye fan would find other elements we missed… That’s all part of the range of whiskies that appeal to different palates and preferences.

Here are the folks at Stauning have to say:

  • Colour – amber, dark
  • Aroma – Rye, fruit, cinnamon
  • Taste – Rye, apple, apricot
  • Finish – Very long, cinnamon, oak, raisin, chocolate

Stauning Rye takes an usual approach in using a large proportion malted rye, then matured in new white oak barrels.

*** Whiskies courtesy of 

For more information, do read Thomas’ posts on Whisky Saga. Specifically:

A fascinating journey so far with our Nordic whisky experiences:

  1. Smögen Single Cask 7/2011 4 year old 57.3%
  2. Smögen Sherry Project 1:4 57.2%
  3. Box Whisky The Festival 2015 54.5%
  4. Shareholders 2016 52%
  5. Mackmyra Preludium:01 – De Första Dropparna, 3 year 55.6%
  6. Mackmyra 8 YO Dram Good Whisky 54.4%
  7. Mackmyra Bachair 3 YO Private Cask
  8. Audny Series 3 4 year 46%
  9. Flóki Young Malt 1st Edition 47%
  10. Teerenpeli Kaski Distiller’s Choice 43%
  11. Stauning Young Rye (2010/2011 – Oct 2012) 49.3% Batch 5 (this post)
  12. Stauning Peated 4 year (2009/2013) 55% 2nd Edition (coming next)

With only one more to go, our Nordic whisky adventures are nearly over…

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Rough Rider ‘Bull Moose’ Three Barrel Rye 45%

Next up in our American tour was a surprise from New York – bottled by Long Island Spirits.

This rye is matured for only one year and made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, matured in three barrels – new American oak, straight bourbon cask, then finished in casks used to age Pine Barrens Single Malt Whiskey. The ‘Bull Moose’ name comes from the nickname of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, formed in 1912. True Americana!

As usual we sampled blind then revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Rough Rider
Rough Rider ‘Bull Moose’ Three Barrel Rye 45% cask select 1

  • Colour – Deeper amber than the Russell’s Reserve
  • Nose – Lemon soapy scented bubble bath, fresh sawdust
  • TasteRuafza (sweet rose syrup), sweet on the tongue while harsh at the back, wine notes with a chardonnay brightness or gewürztraminer sweetness, smooth
  • Finish – Very surface level, slightly sour
Observations:
  • One thought had slightly synthetic flavour
  • Another suggested would be best drunk at a brunch, paired with a lemon tart
  • For a one-year old baccha (child),  not bad… but not qualifying for favourites category

Here’s what the folks over at the WineBow group have to say about their Three Barrel Rye:

Crisp with a fruity sweetness on the nose followed by spice, caramel, vanilla and blackberry on the palate with a long, warm, toasty, velvety finish.

Sampled together with:

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Bring on the bourbon and rye!

Finally proper whisky drinking weather in Mumbai! A hint of chill in the sea breeze just in time for the marriage marathons and seasonal festivities of the December / January ‘seasons.’

Our last monthly malt meeting of 2014 had a decidedly American twang with two Bourbons and a Rye! Given that the US now has over 2,000 whiskey listings with 600 new distilleries, it is no surprise that there are plenty of options to sample.
As none of us had tried these American offerings, we dispensed with our usual blind tasting and merrily went straight for the bottles!
We toured three different states – Kentucky, New York and Colorado.
Russel's Reserve

Russell’s Reserve

Small batch Kentucky straight bourbon matured in ‘alligator-charred’ virgin American oak casks.
  • Colour – bright amber (don’t let the pic fool you!)
  • Nose – banana caramel desert, vanilla, spirity with a slightly peaty element, agarbati smoke, curry leaves with a faint hint of fresh mint sprigs
  • Taste – bitter kerela, baby puke sour, dry and oaky
  • Finish – still bitter
  • Water – BLAND, tamed the sharpness but added nothing new
Conclusion – A nice, easy drinking whisky. And we all enjoy a bit of that from time to time!
Rough Rider

Rough Rider

This rye is matured only one year and is made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, matured in 3 barrels – new American oak, straight bourbon cask, then finished in casks used to age Pine Barrens Single Malt Whiskey. The ‘Bull Moose’ name comes from the nickname of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, formed in 1912. True Americana!
  • Colour – deeper amber than the Russell’s Reserve
  • Nose – lemon soapy scented bubble bath, fresh sawdust
  • Tastepoppins, ruafza, sweet on the tongue while harsh at the back, wine notes with a chardonnay brightness or gewürztraminer sweetness, smooth
  • Finish – very surface level, slightly sour
Observations:
  • One thought had slightly synthetic flavour
  • Another suggested would be best drunk at a brunch, paired with a lemon tart
  • For a one-year old baccha, not bad… but certainly not one to go into the favourites category
Breckenridge

Breckenridge

From Colorado, Breckenridge is aged 2 years in charred new American oak barrels. Its key claim to fame is that it uses water from “snow melted from the rocky mountains.”
  • Nose – reassuringly bourbon banana sweet mellow raisins, fruity
  • Taste – the closest to being Scottish in taste, a bit chewy sweet, good whisky but no specific character hence slightly tricky to describe
  • Finish – light spicy finish
Best quote of the evening:
  • “Feel like cowboys / gals in leather chaps riding off to the sunset just like in those old Westerns. Yeehaw!”
Rough Rider, Breckenridge, Russel's Reserve

Rough Rider, Breckenridge, Russel’s Reserve

And just when we thought the tastings for the evening was over… out popped a repeat from an earlier session consistent with our evenings theme – Blanton’s Single-Barrel Bourbon. With its trademark Blanton stoppers – we have yet to collect each in the series to see the race in action!
20141218-Blanton Label 20141218-Blanton
2014 brought several opportunities to sample brash whiskies from North America, however my personal preference remains single malts from Scotland or a few favourites from Ireland and Japan. You?
Other American whisky evenings:

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