Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – 50%ABV – 750ml bottle – $20 | £25 | €30

Today I am reviewing one of the more surprising American whiskeys I’ve had to date.  I am normally of the mind set that “if it costs more and is harder to get, the better it is”.  This one breaks the mold for sure (thankfully).

I’ve got here a $20 bottle of kick-ass, high proof, American Straight Rye whisky – Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof.  Not only is it inexpensive but it’s quite ubiquitous.  You can’t go into a spirit shop (or shoppe) without finding a bottle of this stuff.  And, to me, this is a good thing.

On the nose Initial few whiffs are very deceiving offering up softer notes of buttered crumpets and dark chocolate.

After nosing is for a bit longer, however, the bite starts to kick in and great vanilla and blueberry notes (yay rye whiskey!) pop as do gingerbread cookies and cinnamon sticks.

A great nose though very stinging (I like that – it lets me know I’m still alive and kicking).

If the ABV weren’t so high I could continue to nose the shit out of this one.

On the mouth The entry here is soft (yes, even at 50% ABV) and the fluid feels, not tastes, feels like thick Kool-aid drink – take a Kool-Aid packet and add about 10% less water and that’s the feel you get.

Starts off like over-cooked butter then gets earthy.  Fresh soil and crystalized ginger – Oh, this is getting stronger, and stronger – alcohol infused flan – Oh, this is good.

Finish Long and longer.  Strong and stronger.

In sumI seriously can not believe that this is only a $20 bottle and was amazed to know that it was named “North American Whiskey of the Year” at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and won a World Whisky Award for Best American Whiskey in 2010 — awesome and well deserved.  Another great whiskey from the Heaven Hill family of whiskeys.

Macallan 1987 Old Malt Cask 50% ABV

Speyside region – 50% ABV – 70cl (though my sample was 3cl) – $£€??  I can’t find this bottle anywhere online – if someone could let me know where to find one, please say so in the comments section because I want a bottle.  STAT.

My knowledge of The Macallan is quite limited there’s a reason why…

Firstly, The Macallan is one of those whiskies that you hear about when you are first getting into whiskies (this and Johnnie Walker Blue).  The impression you get is that it is the gold standard of whiskies.  My tasting of a recent 12yr expression proved otherwise for me.  Ok, so when I say recent, I mean about two years ago.  That 12yr expression seemed like a matchstick-infused-sherry-bomb with WAY too much wineyness to it.  I’ve had a couple other Macallans since (to be honest, I don’t remember what they were but I remember not liking them so much) and they were just not up my alley.

The times they are, becoming different…

Enter the Old Malt Cask 18yr 1987 expression.  I’m going to let the notes do the talking:

On the noseSharp sherried notes (the fruits thereof not the wine in-which), stewed carrots and fresh paint, drying nose, white grapes and chocolate, almond paste/marzipan.

On the mouthSilken and delicious.  Holy crap.

The mouth feel is stupendous. Lots of big chocolate notes.

No overwiney sherry with this Macallan!! Some very nice fresh tobacco, heated butter, salad greens and raspberry (slight), spiced honey, fabulous — Ab-Fab.

Finish — Medium Long and endlessly chewy.

In sum A lovely expression from start to finish.  Complex and contemplative as well as an everyday drinker.  This has restored my faith in the Macallan (again, my familiarity with The Macallan is quite limited).

I’ve heard their “Fine Oak” line is quite different from their standard 12, 18, etc… expressions but, I’ve yet to try that line.  I can tell you, however, this whisky will make you very happy.

Master of Malt Tamnavulin 16yr Single Cask 55.1%ABV

Speyside Region – 55.1%ABV – 70cl bottle – £59.95

Yes, I know it’s Monday and I should be posting my “Rick’s Mystery Dram # 4” but, I had a very late band practice last night and did not have a chance to sample the sample.  So, being that I tasted this MoM Tamnavulin a couple of weeks back, I thought I’d put up what should be my Tuesday post – “Master of Malt, Drinks by the Dram – Tamnavulin Single Cask” review.

I hope to post my “Rick’s Mystery Dram” on Wednesday.  I can’t sample the stuff this evening because later today I’ll be heading out to an Ardbeg & Glenmorangie tasting event in NYC.  Life is hard.

And, now, the Master of Malt Tamnavulin:

On the noseA sharp and pointy grape bush, juicy nose but the ABV really gets ya!  Sugared berries (think sugar coated blueberries) and lemons.  The nose reminds me slightly (ever so) of the palate on the Master of Malt 26yr Bowmore (powdered candies and sugary fruits galore).

Oh, I want to focus on that powdered candy goodness but the lemons take over a bit here.

On the mouth Oily, a bit chewy, honied lemony notes (minus the bitter),

some the fruit from the nose but things sort of drop off from there…

Finish — Short and a bit unimpressive.

In sum The balance just seems off here.  What starts off so nicely (When I say nicely, I actually mean quite exquisite.  I love-love-loved the nose; right up my alley.) dies pretty quickly.  Jim Murray gave it a 90.5 in his 2009 Whisky Bible.  Not sure I agree with him…  I actually have a 2nd sample of this so, I will come back to it.  We’ll see…

Moods *were* for cows and love play…

The other day I was on a call with Jason of Guid Scotch Drink, going over a few ideas: guest blog posts, help with my whisky society (Jason is always up to giving me good tips on how to progress my whisky society), working together on the purchase of a Glenglassaugh Octave Cask, etc…

As we were talking, Jason brought up that fact that A) I’ve got a pretty blog insane posting schedule  (whisky reviews, interviews, mystery dram series, Master of Malt reviews, etc…) and B) he’s noticed that, as of late, I’ve not included into reviews any suggestion of which mood or season to drink with each what malt reviewed.

I started to explain to Jason that, my moods have changed completely and so have my seasonal whiskies.  In days gone by I would never have touched a dram of Ardbeg in the late spring/early summer time (much less review seven of them in one sitting).  As I started to go on about how my approach to whisky has changed, Jason said “I feel a blog post coming on” or, something to that effect.  Jason, thank you.  There was a blog post here.

He’s got a good point.  There’s something going on with me that has altered my approach to whisky and when I should drink it (or suggest others to drink it).  More specifically, my draw to peaty malts has grown to the point where my natural aversion to the smokey stuff during the warmer seasons has been bested.  I currently CRAVE peaty malts.  Why?  In the past, my reasons for reaching for something like a Port Charlotte PC6, Bruichladdich Octomore, Ellenstown 10yr or Ardbeg Ten were because it was damn cold out and I wanted an internal fire to keep me warm.  In 90 degree (fahrenheit) weather, why in the “H.E. Double Hockey Sticks” should I be longing for a peaty/smokey whisky??

I’ve been racking my brain since my conversation with Jason trying to get to the bottom of it.  I may have come up with a solution.

Is it because of marketing?  Ardbeg Supernova 2010 has just been released and so has their Rollercoaster expression.  The marketing around those two whiskies has been nothing short of “Stellar”.  While the marketing is intriguing, I’m no sucker.  Yes, I’ll seek out these whiskies when they are released but in the past I would not open them until is made sense to me (read: cold-ass winter time!).

Is it because I’ve gained access to some samples though trades or otherwise?  Yes, I do need to keep my tasting schedule up and I will review peaty whiskies in the summer time and lighter whiskies in the winter time.  However, I do not review these because I crave them.  I review them because they are there, sitting on my shelf and I like to try and review new things (especially if there’s a good amount of buzz around them.  My personal tastes sometimes need to be put to the side to review “the hot new thing”).

In the end, I think I’ve figured it out.  I am not lying to you when I say I have a lot of shit going on in my life.  A LOT of shit.  I am a father of two sweet, young girls.  I play in a rock band (Kimono Draggin’), I travel quite a bit for work, my step father is very ill, I am on the Religious Activities Committee at my shul (synagogue), I run whisky society, whisky blog…  The list goes on.  There is so much happening in my life that I’ve almost gone numb.  It’s all great stuff but there’s so little “Josh” time.  It’s been nothing but needles and pins for me as of late.

So here it is, near summertime, and why am I reaching for the peaty stuff?  I think I need something to let me know that I’m still alive.  Shocking my nose and palate (shocking my system).  Like a malt whisky sniffing salt.  George Harrison was right: “All things must pass”.  Until then, I have Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Port Askaig, Benromach 10 and Big Peat to remind me that yes, not only am I alive and kicking but it’s all OK and so am I.