Coppersea are a new’ish New York craft distillery. In the world of American spirits very few phrases evoke the kind of terror that “craft distillery” does. Despite what their websites say, many craft distilleries seem to stand for unpleasant, undrinkable spirits you pay vastly inflated prices for while the well-meaning, young people with beards who run them figure out how to make whisky or whatever with some production twist that is meant to intrigue as well.
Do Coppersea have a production twist? Yes, they do; more than one actually: they make their whiskey from grain that is still germinating (thus green malt) and they don’t kiln it; and they apparently use some barrels made of New York oak (locally sourced!). They have the inflated price down too. The retail price for this rye is $95 for 375 ml. That almost makes up the upcoming Booker’s Rye seem like a bargain at $300—after all, at Beam they actually have been making whisky a long time and Booker’s Rye is probably going to be very good and aged longer than the .6 years this one was aged for. (Yes, you read that correctly: there’s a decimal point before the 6.) I guess they couldn’t wait another .4 years.
Well, to tell the truth, despite the above, I don’t object as much to young distilleries charging more for their low-volume early releases as they try to find their footing as I do to established distilleries with mega outputs gouging their customers —the expected contract is that they will get better at making what they make and that prices will come down later. (Does that actually ever happen? You tell me.) And if they are in fact making something quite different from the established mainstream (which in rye mostly means the MGP profile) and it’s palatable, so much the better. Let’s see where this falls.
Coppersea Green Malt Rye (45%; batch 15-2; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Hmmm. Big leafy, green, vegetal notes off the top and rooty notes right below. I was reading an article about an eau-de-vie made from gentian roots last night and that’s all I can think about. There’s nothing off the top here that will make you think “rye” as you know it. Calms down as it sits and breadier notes emerge—yes, it smells more like rye bread than like rye whiskey (this is not a criticism); a little mustier too now and then notes of crayon, damp sackcloth, dirty socks and musty basement (yum yum yum!). Do I dare take a sip? Water brings out a lot more of the crayon note.
Palate: Well, it’s not quite as wild on the palate as I feared it would be. There’s a lot of cinnamon and clove and some indistinct sweet and woody notes to go with but there’s nothing very offensive. I’d feared it would be astringent and it’s not. With more time some indistinct sour notes replace the indistinct sweet notes. Water brings that chemical/crayon note to the palate as well and renders it more astringent.
Finish: Medium. Bitter, rooty notes here but nothing too extreme. Water extends the finish but that’s not a good thing as it gets even more astringent as it goes.
Comments: At first this was sure different, as we say in Minnesota, but it came on nicely on the palate and is certainly drinkable, on the whole (but hold the water). It’s not really my thing and it’s quite obviously very young but it’s not heinous (not neat anyway). What would this be like if it were matured for 6 rather than .6 years? It’s hard to say. Hopefully, the distillery will make it that far and we’ll be able to find out. In the meantime I wouldn’t go near it with my $95 and can’t recommend you do the same either unless you’re a very charitable type.
Rating: 74 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample! (See here for his review.)