Geeez, just when I proclaim that rye isn’t my favorite branch of the whisky tree, I find one I really, really like. I guess it should come as no surprise that it’s from the Van Winkle family of American hooch as everything else I’ve tried of theirs I’ve really enjoyed. There are a couple of interesting things to note about Van Winkle’s Rye, first of all, rye is definitely the odd man out in their range as everything else that they do are wheated bourbons. Secondly, it’s aged for 13 years, quite a bit longer than nearly all the other rye’s out there. We tried this one at Whiskey Thieves…
The Nose: Sharp vanilla rye, and malty, grainy coconut lead off a really inviting nose. There’s a bit of Almond Joy candy bar as well, some faint cocoa and nutty tones. It’s definitely the nose of a rye whiskey but there’s a lot of other notes here combining to make it just damn pleasant.
The Palate: A bit of what was on the nose carries through here in some form. The coconut becomes a creamier, the cocoa and nuttiness become a bit more vanilla-like, and the rye…well, that just stays the course. It transitions nicely from sweeter, creamier tones into finally showing off its time in the barrel. Towards the end, there are drying, oak notes playing strongly with the rye as well as a bit of burnt sugar.
The Finish: Medium-long, spicy with a little oak, but mostly it’s just the grain of the rye that slowly drifts away.
Thoughts: While I knew the Sazerc 18yr old was a damn good whiskey, it was too 1-note for me to really throw it a parade of any kind. While the rye is obviously big here, too, there are some other interesting flavors that help up the complexity a bit. I could see some people not caring for the amount of wood that show up here, there’s a good amount of oak, but I think it works well with the grain notes. All in all, it’s very balanced and delicious all the way through.
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, 13 Years Old