It will shock most of you to learn that the Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey differs from the Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey in alcoholic strength. Yes, I know, please…try to control yourselves. The latter rye whiskey from MGP was bottled at 47% ABV. This one, as the barrel proof name strongly suggests, was bottled at 56.3% ABV. Whereas the lower proof rye was taken from a selection of 159 barrels, the Barrel Proof was plucked from about half as many, 83 barrels to be exact. The mashbill is presumably the same, a blend of MGP’s relatively ubiquitous 95% rye recipe, and it’s relatively new (started in 2013) 51% rye recipe. The age is also roughly the same, with the brand’s website declaring it to be between five and six years old. What we don’t know for sure is whether or not a distinction was made when choosing the barrels for the two expressions. Were the better, more “honey” barrels set aside for the Barrel Proof? Possibly. The Website PR hints at that in a vague PR-ish kind of way, and the price jump between the two would seem to indicate not just a bump up in proof, but in quality as well. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, though just to be clear, we’re talking about whiskey, not pudding.
The Nose: Similar to its lower ABV sibling, yet a little less sweet, more oaky, and perhaps predictably, hotter. There’s orange oil, dark honey, brown sugars, and a little cherry cough syrup. The rye balances between toasty, bread-y grain and a slightly peppery, slightly minty herbal quality. The oak comes across as sawn boards, lightly tannic with spice notes of clove, cinnamon, white pepper, candied ginger, and vanilla extract. A bit of water brings out more of those winey notes found in the Straight Rye.
The Palate: The palate handles the higher ABV well. Initially, there’s Demerara syrup, pulpy orange, cinnamon honey, and just a few leftover cherry notes. Lots of vanilla, both sticky bean and syrup, and nutty chocolate fudge. The rye is present, though not overly strong, again showing off both toasty grain and peppery herbal notes. The oak is grippy and coarse, full of clove, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Adding a little water really makes the palate shine, spreading the sweetness out and integrating everything really nicely.
The Finish: Longish, spicy, and rye-filled. Some burnt sugars fade early, leaving oak, peppery baking spice and peppery herbal rye.
Thoughts: As with the Straight Rye…great stuff. It’s very interesting tasting these two side by side. The jump up in proof of course gives it a different feel, but their flavor profiles are fairly similar. Whereas I loved the winey-ness of the Straight Rye’s nose, here I loved the deep and vibrant palate – especially with a bit of water. The Straight Rye is the better one to use in cocktails, this one shines as a more rugged slow, neat sipper, or even over a large chunk of ice. The quandary comes with the price. This is a very, very good whiskey, perhaps a step up over the Straight Rye, but enough of a step up to justify the $30 jump in price (this one’s $70, the Straight Rye is $40)? That’s a tougher call. Still, definitely recommended.
- “Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey.” Rossville Union, http://www.rossvilleunion.com/.