Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First Taste: Rittenhouse Rye 23 Year Old Single Barrel Whiskey

Rye is the latest bartender's delight, but the very small category also commands attention from old and new whiskey sippers with a taste for more tang than they usually find in their corn likker. But this one...well, I've seen it listed as a cocktail ingredient, to me just an appeal to the conspicuous consumers whose habits are now passé. No, Rittenhouse Rye 23 Year Old Single Barrel Straight Whiskey is, at 50% alcohol by volume, for thoughtful lapping with a splash of water or a small cube, as you like. The label calls rye “the most flavorful of American whiskey styles,” and if this old Rittenhouse is the new measuring stick, then the rest of the American whiskey business has a strong act to follow. Bold and spicy, with notes of lanolin, neatsfoot oil, dulce de leche, cloves and cinnamon on the nose, it tastes surprisingly youthful at first – I’d never say 23 if asked to guess its age, an achievement to say the least. The whiskey blossoms on the tongue with flavors of cinnamon, caramelized sugar, fresh cut grass and vanilla. The finish is penetrating and lean, but doesn’t show its potency at all, moving silky smooth all the way across the palate. This one’s all leather and lace, country elegant and dressed up for the dance. They've got no more stored away down in Kentucky, so if you find it, buy it. (Distributed by Heaven Hill.)
My score: 10

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