I had this rye on my list of potential reviews for November but was not super motivated to actually review it. But then last week everyone’s favourite whisky writer, good ol’ Jim Murray went and put it at #2 on his list of the best whiskies of 2015 and now I get to be very, very timely for once. As you know by now, the #1 whisky was a Canadian rye, a pick which even patriotic Canadians are having some difficulty getting behind. No, it’s not Whistlepig or even Lot 40, but some undistinguished rye from Crown Royal: Crown Royal Northern Harvest. Just in case you think that Comrade Murray is striking a blow for the common people (or for Canada even) please be advised that it’s his standard operating procedure to create as much controversy as he can. Still, the Crown Royal selection, as far as I can tell from what Canadians who’ve actually tasted the whisky are saying, seems analogous to picking Speyburn 10 or Jack Daniels as the top whisky of any year. Murray may well be taking the piss.
Still, not having tasted it, I suppose I should withhold judgement. But, thanks to Sku (as you may be able to tell from the label on the sample bottle), I don’t need to be so coy for the #2 whisky (about which selection no one has gotten very upset yet, even though what I’d read of it before last week suggests that it is probably a very eccentric pick as well). Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.
Oh, as this is an American whiskey the usual caveats about name and story apply. Though it’s not easy to tell from a glance at the label, this is another Heaven Hill brand and said to be made from the same mashbill as their Rittenhouse Rye (as Sku points out, despite marketing verbiage about Maryland and Pennsylvania traditions, both are made in Kentucky). Well, I’ll be interested to see if I like it as much as (or find it much different than) I did the Rittenhouse Rye at 100 proof.
Pikesville Rye 6, 110 Proof (55%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Spicy and sweet to start with some pine and the usual herbal complex and a touch of honey. Some pencil shavings too and then a coolness (more clove than mint) and some of the cold tea I got on the Rittenhouse. Quite pleasant. With more time there are some hard candy’ish citrus notes (somewhere between lemon and orange). With more time there’s a bit of toffee too. Somewhat blah with water.
Palate: Much sharper on the palate with a lot of spice: clove, cinnamon and a bit of oak. On the second sip there’s more of the herbal notes and some of the sweetness from the palate. Not too much change with time. Sweeter with water and also less interesting.
Finish: Long. Sweet and spicy; no real development from the palate—maybe a touch more woody now. Falls apart here with water: astringent and metallic.
Comments: Well, I doubt even the proprietors of Heaven Hill would say this is the second best whiskey they produce, leave alone in the world, but it’s a good, solid rye. The nose was my favourite part. Sku found the finish to be unbalanced–I only found that to be so with water. On the whole, I can’t say I like it more than the Rittenhouse BiB, and I can’t say I’d ever pay $50 for it (or close) but if the Canadian rye Murray picked #1 is to Canadian ryes as this one is to American ryes, then these picks do not represent as great a set of crimes against humanity as some are making them out to be.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!