My Experience with Everyone’s Favorite Hyped Up Rye

Kentucky-Owl-11-Year-Rye__65754.1507930950

My Experience with Everyone's Favorite Hyped Up Rye

By Greg Kevorkian

Let me preface this with "I am not a huge rye fan". That being said, I've had multiple opportunities to buy Kentucky Owl rye at retail this year, and I've done so each and every time. Every bottle I've purchased has been passed on at cost to friends that I'm sure would enjoy it more then I would. Review after review has this whiskey as one of, if not THE top rye, right behind Booker's and maybe Van Winkle Family Reserve. Every now and then you'll see a review that ruffles feathers and claims "Rye XX" > Kentucky Owl but for the most part, I was really wondering if I made a horrible decision by not holding on to one bottle for myself. Then last night it happened....

One of those bottles made its way back to me in the form of a sample. Much yay! So excite!!! So much hype. So many expectations. It was really happening!!!! That first whiff. The inhale that would confirm I made mistake after mistake after mistake. A huge smile formed across my face as I realized I made exactly the right decision. The last time I smelled something like this, it was a farmhouse ale. Pure wet hay resting in a damp basement. If brettanomyces could be a thing in a whiskey, this would be it. Horse blanket and a mustiness that would suggest cork taint, but different. That is, if I really focused past the ethanol burning my olifactory system.

"How is this only 55.3%?!?" was the next thought to run through my head. I drink Booker's and Stagg neat, so it's not like a barrel strength is foreign to my system. This comes across so much hotter than that. Just a grassy, wet dog, burning slap to my face! Thankfully most of that experience is just limited to the nose.

On the palate there's a surprisingly young rye grassiness with spruce tips and peppery spice, but it does balance out with hints of a much older and developed mellow sweetness that should be present given it's 11 year age statement. The ethanol burn is very present and almost distracting. Adding 10-15 drops of water does tame it down, but the profile doesn't change much. Very High West once diluted. I even equated this to High West blending Mid Winter Night's Dram with Double Rye, at which point the gentleman that provided the sample obviously had enough and told me he is no longer speaking to me because I don't know what I'm saying.

So yeah, I realize I'm deep in the minority here, but given that the secondary price seems to have quickly closed the gap between where it used to be and MSRP, I have to wonder if more and more share this same opinion. It's not a bad rye; the nose did confuse me a bit, but overall I think I just went in with too many expectations and just a tad bit of worry. I have half of the sample left and fully intend on giving it a second chance, but as of now I'm still more than happy to pass these on as I see them.

Cheers!

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.

mm
Feature Writer, Non-traditional reviewer

All Time Favorite Whisky: Clan Lonach Bunnahabhain 40 Year

Daily Drinkers: Four Roses Single Barrel, Ardbeg 10 Year

Greg has a fascination with the science and history of both distilling and brewing that dates back to his college years. What once was a simple curiosity of “how is this made?” transformed into a hands on course of learning though experimental home-brewing with his friends. The transition from brewing to studying whiskey distillation was a natural progression for him as the science behind fermentation and handling different yeast strains continued to interest him. As bourbon barrel aging became more and more prominent in the craft beer world, his interest in those specific flavor profiles grew and he incorporated more and more bourbon into what used to be solely his Islay Scotch liquor cabinet.

Now with years of study and the occasional brew-day with his friends, Greg has also combined his love for cooking and flavor combinations with his whisky fascination. He can often be found spending his free time blending and finishing different whiskeys based on complimentary or opposing mash bills as well as flavor profiles he believes will enhance one another. The finished products are passed on as samples or enjoyed in the company of friends. After all, even if they’re not all life-changing, they’re still worth sharing. At its core, isn’t that what whiskey is about? The friendships, the experience, and most importantly, creating something that not only can be shared but enjoyed.

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