Let me begin by saying that I have placed this review in the category “Whisky by Distillery” because most people are likely to look there to see if I have any reviews of Van Winkle whiskies (assuming, of course, that anyone looks to see if I have reviews of anything). However, as there is no Van Winkle distillery, only a brand, this should really go under Van Winkle as a bottler. Who distilled the whiskey that was in the bottle my sample came from is also not clear. As per the source of my sample—who knows far, far more about American whiskey than I do—there’s not much more than strong conjecture/mythology about the provenance. I don’t want to repeat things I don’t know for sure and so I will leave it to anyone who knows more to shed any clear light they may have on where Van Winkle Rye bottled in 2010 came from.
Van Winkle Rye 13 (47.8%; bottled October 2010; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Very caramelly and bourbony. Not very far, in fact, from a high rye bourbon. The mint and pine notes are here, too be sure, but more as a point of emphasis than as the only story. Even more bourbony with water.
Palate: Very nice. As on the nose, this seem closer to a high-rye bourbon than the other ryes I’ve had or reviewed so far. Caramel, maple syrup, cloves, nutmeg and, of course, the rye flavours of mint and pine as well. After a bit there’s a kind of cinnanmony gingerbread made with molasses thing going on as well. And also the cold tea note that I seem to get a lot with rye and rye-forward bourbons. Really nicely balanced. As on the nose, water makes this even more bourbony as it pulls the caramel and maple syrup notes to the front.
Finish: Kind of evanescent. There’s a minty coolness in my mouth but not much else. Water does extend the finish: there’s more cinnamon and wood spice now.
Comments: The fact that I’ve liked this the most of the (few) ryes I’ve reviewed so far may mean that I like bourbon more than rye. Then again, I liked the 100% rye Whistlepig just a little bit less. And who knows, maybe I was influenced by Patrick telling me that this is thought to be a “barely legal” rye (aka only just above 51% rye, so with lots of corn as in bourbon).
I have two more rye reviews coming up: the Thomas H. Handy and Sazerac 18 from the 2011 Buffalo Trace collection but I’ll wait a few more days to post those as what little readership I have may be more interested in malt whisky.
Thanks to Patrick for the sample!
Rating: 87 points.