Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whiskey Review: Jefferson's 10-Year Straight Rye

After nearly disappearing from the market, rye whiskey has been clawing its way back into respectability (and occasionally great acclaim) over the last decade. While most of this whiskey is made in the United States, rye is also made in Canada. However, this whiskey is rarely bottled as straight rye, instead being blended into Canadian whisky to add flavor. As an additional quirk, this flavoring whisky is 100% rye, without any corn or barley.

A few companies have approached the distillers of this whisky and purchased barrels to bottle as straight rye whiskey. Whistle Pig took this approach and has garnered all sorts of accolades in the process. However, it also costs a pretty penny. Now McLain & Kyne, previously known for "very small batch" bottlings of Kentucky bourbon, have tossed their hats into the ring and have also bottled some 10-year old 100% rye whiskey. Even better, it retails for about half the price of Whistle Pig.

Tasting Notes

Nose: light grain with an undercurrent of brown sugar or caramel, a hint of rye grain, very slight alcohol underneath and cool mint, becoming herbal with a twinge of chocolate and berries after a drop or two of water

Taste: honey sweetness up front, rye spiciness, creamy with a transition to intense mint, rhum agricole. The flavors seem to be dependent on how the whiskey is drunk, with most of the rye spiciness developing in the middle and the mint coming at the back of the mouth

Finish: very long, minty and herbal with a bit of pepper

This is a great whiskey. M&K have selected a really solid rye and put it out at an incredibly affordable price point. In Oregon right now it's only $34, which is a very small bump up from the baby Sazerac, Russell's Reserve, and Bulleit 95 for a significant increase in age and quality. There's a little more competition once it gets up around $40, but I'd still call it a good buy then. There's enough going on that you can spend a decent amount of time dissecting the various flavors, but it's also pleasant enough to be a relaxing drink at the end of the day. My only complaint, which syncs up with other opinions, is that it could use a slight boost in proof. Somewhere between 100-110 would hopefully ratchet up all the flavors without cutting into profit margins too much. So all said and done, if you like rye, or even whiskey in general, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.


  1. Lovely review, Jordan. These new Canadian rye rebottlings are popping up all over and some of them are very good indeed and great values. This one sounds like a cracker. I love the reference to "rhum agricole" in the tasting notes. The 47% abv is appreciated too. Thanks for putting this on my radar. I've seen it but didn't have a reference point.

    1. Thanks, Josh. I got really lucky with this one. Saw a new rye on the shelf, decided that the price point wasn't too bad, and went with it. In terms of value, this one is really close to Rittenhouse Bonded. The quality of the experience more than justifies the price point, especially given the dearth of older, reasonably priced ryes on the market right now.

      I feel like there are similarities between rye whiskey and rhum agricole. They both have small niches within larger spirits categories and have fairly funky agricultural flavors and quirks that endear them to a small number of people.

    2. Yes, "funky agricultural flavors" - that's it exactly. They both taste like you're right there in the harvest. I love both very dearly. I'll definitely be picking one of these up - but after I finish half a dozen open bottles of Rye. I have Whistlepig sitting on deck in the storage drawer!

  2. Jordan, thanks for the reply on Sku's blog. I took this here not to hijack his forum. I'm revisiting my Jefferson 10. I'm trying it tonight in a cognac snifter not to miss on any hidden bits. I remain at my initial impression - spirity, without much action except for some disturbing notes. Didn't anyone notice the vinyl taste, like chewing on a deflated beach ball? I had the same exact experience with the Masterson's and to a lesser extent with Whistle Pig. With the WP I just couldn't get past the spirity taste. And I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to high proof whisky. Maybe I just had bad luck with all three bottles (Masterson's was just a quick taste off someone else's bottle).

    I'm ready to say that in the snifter the nose of Jefferson is now more interesting than I remember it, with nice rye spice and some of that winterfresh mint that you mention. I'll send you a sample on next opportunity to see what you think. Maybe I just need to let it sit more and add some water... I would love to be proven wrong!