*Sincere thanks to Tattersall Distilling and Steve Gill for the sample and information.
The inspiration for Tattersall Distilling’s Straight Rye Whiskey is the nearly extinct Monongahela Rye style that begin life in the late 1700’s along the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Monongahela style was defined by its heavy use of rye, a crop which farmers had an abundance of, but initially no real means of efficient transportation. So, often faced with a surplus, the Northern European settlers of the area did what they always did, they brewed it and they distilled it. Corn was not yet a common crop in the region, so the whiskeys of this time were usually almost all rye with perhaps a bit of malted barley to aid in fermentation. Thus, with its very high rye content, Monongahela ryes were known to be more robust, and grain forward, often quite young, and brash compared to the milder Maryland style rye.
Tattersall co-founders Dan Oskey and Jon Kreidler started dreaming about creating a rye shortly after they began dreaming about creating the distillery. It’s a spirit that they say has been in the plan since day one. Tattersall’s lineup is diverse and numerous compared to most craft distilleries, but most of their stuff goes from the still to the bottle in a relatively short amount of time. This straight rye whiskey on the other hand has taken over two years to create. It is a decidedly Minnesotan product, and while it’s not the first to showcase its local-ness, it is another important demonstration of how much potential the state has to be a unique distilling powerhouse. The grain was grown and harvested from a single farm located in Cambridge, MN, fairly close to the Twin Cities. The spirit was aged in casks made in Minnesota by Black Swan Cooperage from Minnesota-grown oak. The mashbill for this whiskey is 85% rye and 15% malted rye. The use of malted rye is going to produce a different, possibly heavier flavor, and may also help a bit in fermentation. Tattersall’s Straight Rye has been aged for two years in 30 gallon barrels. This initial run (around 2,000 bottles) will only be available in Minnesota with other markets getting in on the action when a larger second batch is comes out in the fall.
The Nose: Sweetness and grain. The sweeter side is Demerara sugar, tangerine peel, cherry cola, and baked apples with cinnamon. The rye is strong, sturdy and upfront, but not overbearing with toasted grains and rye crackers. Behind that are notes of roasted walnuts, unroasted coffee beans, and a little burnt sugar. There’s a beguiling herbal quality as well, dried herbs and subtle hint of damp, mossy rocks. The oak is present, but not too strong with allspice, vanilla bean, clove, and a faint hint of aniseed.
The Palate: This has a really nice, creamy mouthfeel. More dark sugars early along with cherry cough syrup, cola, and blood orange. Roasted salted nuts. and baker’s chocolate lead to more strong, integrated rye – toasty grains with herbal, greenish overtones. The oak is stronger and more prominent throughout the palate with astringent, grippy tannins, sharp-edged wood, vanilla bean, Vietnamese cinnamon, young ginger, and a little clove.
The Finish: That dark sugar and cola sweetness is quickly taken over by the tannic oak, and toasted, herbal rye. Peppery toasted grain lingers the longest.
Thoughts: This grew quite a bit on me in the span of one glass. Initially, it seemed young and reserved, but as it quickly opened up, it became much more expressive and complex. Given co-founder Dan Oskey’s lauded career as a bartender/cocktail guru, it should come as no surprise that this is well-executed stuff and really pretty satisfying on several levels. True to style, it’s youthful and brash, but also fairly balanced and smooth. It certainly holds its own as a straight sipper, is quite nice over ice, and thanks to its strong rye character and high ABV, also makes for a dynamic base spirit in cocktails. Tattersall has picked a style of whiskey that suits both their distillate and, probably, their desire to get a whiskey on the shelves relatively quickly. They could easily have gone the route of so many other craft distilleries and bottled this closer to 40% and priced it for $50 or more. Instead, with its relatively high ABV and relatively low price of around $35, the Tattersall Rye is a rare and special thing in the craft spirit world…a damn good first whiskey that’s well worth the money. Definitely recommended, especially if you’re a Minnesotan.
- Curtis, Wayne. “Americas Oldest Rye Whiskey Is Back from Extinction.” Punch, 24 Apr. 2017, punchdrink.com/articles/pennsylvania-maryland-whiskey-best-rye-eastern-america-back-from-extinction/
- Komlenic, Sam. “What is Old Monongahela Rye?” Whisky Advocate, M. Shanken Communications, 4 Jan. 2018, whiskyadvocate.com/old-monongahela-rye/
- “Sourcing.” Tattersall Distilling, tattersalldistilling.com/sourcing/
- “Spirits.” Tattersall Distilling, tattersalldistilling.com/spirits/
- “Tattersall Releases Straight Rye Whiskey.” BevNET.com, 21 Feb. 2018, www.bevnet.com/news/spirits/2018/tattersall-releases-straight-rye-whiskey/