Appearance: copper with hints of blood orange and ruby.
Nose: honey and spiced orange heat tickles in the back much like a wintry flame crackling in the chill night air. Peaches and apricot. Honey on crunchy cornbread. Wild rye husks and seeds.
Body: swirls oily, thick, and sticky. Full and mouth-coating. Sticky lips. Dry in the back.
Palate: sweet up front, dry in the back, heat, and then lingering spice. Honey along the sides. Cornbread is a faint afterthought, mostly crust. Rye seeds in the middle, sweet and caramelized in honey apricots. Orange oils and zest.
Finish: grips the middle of my chest and never really lets go, lingering and teasing with sweet spicy heat. Finish is dry with raw rye seeds and husks in the back. Somewhere a fireplace is crackling.
My first dip into the newly rediscovered world of rye whiskey, a brand new venture I thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy. While (ri)1 isn’t the most complex rye whiskey, brimming with depth and individual character, I found it more than satisfactory. Considering my overall curiosity when it comes to flavor generally speaking and spirits specifically speaking, my journey is far from over…if it will ever be over at all. I damn well hope not for as rewarding is the destination, so too is the journey itself. Since my virgin baptism (ri)1 style, I’ve sampled a few other rye whiskeys and it pleasures me greatly to know there are many more. In fact, with the resurgence of interest in rye (both in whiskey and beer) and the ever expanding embrace of small, artisanal, and local, methinks this is a journey without end and I am quite alright with that.
But just what is it that makes rye whiskey so special? Well, it really is all in the namesake and that is rye. Whiskey is nothing new, though always something special, and as American is bourbon, so too is rye. Our own island of austerity and unapologetic character, rye’s flavor is dry and spiced, sweet and heat, fruity and husky. Rye is not an easy character to deal with; from mash to wort to distillation to barrel, rye fights each and every step in a robust proclamation of its individuality and proud declaration to stay that way. Side by side by side, rye is neither bourbon nor scotch nor Canadian whiskey nor moonshine.
Truly unique and truly delicious, in my not so humble and proud of it opinion, rye continues to enjoy its flavorful boom, and so will I. Ask your liquor store clerk, your bartender, or your local cocktail geek (for every cocktailarian is equally a spirit geek) for some rye. Have a taste or three. Savor the horizons and never once stop being curious. The spice of life? Maybe not THE spice of life, but definitely one of integrity and respect.
Kristyn Lier, Vero Beach (20th St. ABC Fine Wine and Spirits)